Undocumented New Yorkers who were affected by Hurricane Ida last fall can still submit their applications for assistance until April 29th.
The $27 million Hurricane Ida relief fund was allocated specifically for individuals who were excluded from receiving FEMA aid, after the hurricane devastated the homes of hundreds of New Yorkers, including basements which were primarily rented by immigrant families.
How we covered it: Renters of Basement Apartments Fear Claiming Hurricane Ida Aid
The program originally accepted applications between September 27th and November 26th last year, and extended its deadline until January 4th to ensure that individuals had the chance to apply. But after reports showing that less than 10% of the funding had been distributed, a grace period of 60 days was enacted by The New York State Office for New Americans (ONA) to allow those affected to apply.
“This extra time will help address any ongoing unmet emergency disaster assistance needs. New York State recognizes that some individuals and families who might have been eligible to apply for the Ida Relief for Excluded New Yorkers Fund may not have timely applied due to the barriers they face as a result of their particular circumstances,” said a spokesperson for the office of Governor Hochul told Documented.
The financial assistance is available for New Yorkers ineligible for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Individual Assistance Program, and reside in the areas of Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, the Bronx, Westchester, Long Island or Rockland. It can cover losses and costs related to home repairs, moving, storage, transportation, personal property, and more.
As of March 14, the fund distributed $1,316,798.32 to 240 households.
Becca Telzak, Deputy Director of Make The Road NY, one of the seven community partners helping New Yorkers with the application process, said they had received around 2,000 calls during the first wave of applications, and have helped secure around $1 million for the victims. Some individuals have also been referred to FEMA after they were found eligible during the screening phase.
“They never would have imagined they could be eligible for some sort of funding like this. And to get checks for … what their loss and damage was, they are very relieved,” Telzak said, adding that they have continued to do outreach in the community.
Minkwon, a advocacy organization based in Queens, which has also partnered with ONA to help process applications for the relief fund, says that they have been constantly in touch with members of the area but that some have been reluctant to apply due to the amount of proof they must submit.
“The process can be a little complicated for some people, because of the required documentation as proof for all the categories. So if the storm did not impact them as much, or they had lost only a few of their belongings, then they are not likely to apply,” an associate of special projects at MinKwon told Documented.
The associate mentioned that there are around ten categories that people can submit their claims for, and that some can be easier to submit documentation for – car damage being of the simplest ones. There is a limit on the amount of money for each category as well.
After community members go through the screening process, they are told to compile the proof and evidence of damage, at which point some might choose not to continue.
“This isn’t like an insurance company or nothing like that. It’s more like a humanitarian project with a fund. Although it could take some time, they’re still happy about it, because they see that it’s better than nothing,” the associate added.
Also read: Hurricane Ida Victims are Facing Eviction Again
Some had applied to the wrong assistance
For the past few weeks, immigrant New Yorkers have reached out to Documented via our WhatsApp community asking for information on financial assistance. During interviews they mentioned that they were unaware the Hurricane Ida relief program was still open.
Elvia, 42, a resident of Jamaica in Queens, said that she tried getting assistance back in September through FEMA, with her eight-year-old daughter’s social security number. Through the help of her neighbor who speaks English, she contacted the agency and a person came by to see the damages on the two bedroom basement apartment that she rents.
“He did not even enter to see the damage, just stood at the front door. About two weeks later they said I did not qualify,” she told Documented via a phone interview.
She claims that she lost a couch and other belongings, and that she had to pay a person to come and help her clean the basement after the storm. When she had asked the landlord for a reimbursement, she said he told her that it was not his problem. She wanted to move to another place but said the rents were higher than the $1,900 she is currently paying with the help of her 21-year-old son, who also lives there.
“I was worried for my daughter’s health, because there was a musty smell after we cleaned. It was humid,” she said. Elvia has video and photos of the flooding that she wants to submit with her application.
Another member of Documented’s WhatsApp community, who did not want to go on the record, lost all of her belongings after the basement flooded during the storm. She had sought assistance from a nurse at a local clinic that she visited but was told that she did not qualify because of her immigration status, which was incorrect. Ever since the flood happened, she has been asking to stay with friends and says that her health has constantly been experiencing headaches and dizziness due to the stress of finding a new place.
Assistance applying for Hurricane Ida relief
If you haven’t applied, you can contact the hotline (1-800-566-7636) for more information and referrals to community partners providing application assistance. Application details are here.
Catholic Charities Community Services
402 East 152nd Street, Bronx, NY 10455
Chinese American Planning Council
4101 8th Ave, 4th Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11232
133-29 41st Avenue, Suite 202, Flushing, NY 11355
Make the Road
92-10 Roosevelt Ave, Jackson Heights, NY 11372
Make the Road
161 Port Richmond Ave, Staten Island, NY 10302
Economic Opportunity Commission of Nassau County
Make the Road
Westchester & Rockland
Also read: FASTEN: Rental Assistance for Tenants Facing Housing Insecurity in New York