By Alice Kenny
Erin Smith spends her nights at a relative’s house and her days repairing her hurricane–torn home in South Beach.
She said that dealing with different government agencies after the storm was a daunting task.
“It was so overwhelming it made you want to throw in the towel,” Smith says as she walks from gutted to freshly painted rooms in her bungalow during a recent interview aired on NY1.
Catholic Charities announced last week that $38.5 million in federal funding has been allocated to its disaster recovery program with the help of Governor Cuomo. The program is modeled after a similar one run by Catholic Charities in 34 counties across New York State following Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in 2011.
The Sandy recovery program will provide more caseworkers who can help local residents on Staten Island and throughout the city tackle a variety of tasks to cope with the hurricane’s consequences.
Eligibility is open to anyone with an unmet need that arose from or was exacerbated by Superstorm Sandy, even those who have not applied to FEMA for assistance.
Two months ago, Smith was referred to Catholic Charities caseworker MaryEllen Ferrera. The agency has about a dozen caseworkers on Staten Island who provide free assistance to homeowners hurt by Hurricane Sandy. Funds are allocated to the agency through a federal disaster assistance program.
Ferrera helped Smith get supplies and gift cards to rebuild her home. She has also reached out to government agencies on her behalf
“We get to know directors in positions to help and push through applications for our clients,” Ferrera says.
Smith says FEMA denied her applications several times. Ferrera intervened to successfully file an appeal. Finally, Smith received a FEMA grant.
Smith says her caseworker has not only helped her get help, she’s become a mentor and a friend.
It feels that I have somebody that’s going to have my back,” Smith says.
Check out the video on NY1.
Looking for help?
Or visit www.catholiccharitiesny.org.