Union County residents who suffered from the impact of Hurricane Sandy might feel merrier after learning about help coming their way from the Robin Hood Foundation. The New-York based philanthropy has awarded a $75,000 grant to Jewish Family Service of Central New Jersey to help storm victims in the area.
The agency also welcomed news of an $18,000 grant for Sandy relief from the Emergency Appeal of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ and Jewish Federations of North America.
The new grants come in addition to three others received in December: $25,000 from Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, $5,000 from the Grotta Fund for Senior Care, and $5,000 from the California-based organization MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger.
The money from Robin Hood will enable JFS to provide financial assistance of up to $1,000 per recipient, and it is inviting people who meet its residency, need, and income criteria to apply.
Social worker Jodi Fox is handling the screening process for JFS.
“The money is to cover unreimbursed expenses from Sandy,” she said. For example, people who lost their jobs or part of their income due to the storm can apply for help to make mortgage, rental, or utility payments. Or it could be used for home repair costs not covered by insurance or FEMA, for things like fixing or replacing damaged roofs, siding, broken windows, or fences.
The money could also be used to cover home insurance deductibles.
“When people tell you their stories, you can hear how traumatic it was,” Fox said. “And it can be very difficult to work out what is and isn’t covered by FEMA or by insurance. People aren’t bitter, but they’re looking for help.”
To be eligible, applicants must show proof that they meet certain annual income limits. The agency is using maximum income guidelines based on 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. Those range from a maximum of just under $46,000 for a single person, to $158,520 for a family of eight.
The Robin Hood Foundation, which usually focuses on poverty in New York City, is funded by individual donors and various other sources, including its “12-12-12” concert which last December featuring a lineup of major rock stars. That event raised around $50 million in ticket sales, with more coming from donations; a total of $62 million has been disbursed to assist Sandy victims.
Robin Hood spokesperson Patty Smith said a number of Jewish organizations in New Jersey received grants, but JFS was the only one in Union County. “With the storm, many of the organizations seeking help were new, without a track record. We’ve had to be careful not to overwhelm them or to over-fund.
“But when it came to JFS,” she said, “we could see that it had the client base and was clearly well placed to reach those in need, and that it was very trustworthy.”
Staff members from Robin Hood did a site visit to JFS headquarters in Elizabeth in mid-March. Smith said the observers “were very impressed with the staff’s knowledge and their understanding of the community.”
JFS executive director Tom Beck said, “Even though it has been several months since Hurricane Sandy, we are still getting calls about needs, including lost wages, people who are behind on mortgages, rent, and utility bills. While insurance and FEMA covered some home damage, there are many gaps.
“Thanks to the federation, the Robin Hood Foundation, the Grotta Foundation, and Mazon, we are able to meet some of those needs.”