Thursday November 15, 2012

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- Federally-paid contractors will do basic repairs so tens of thousands of New York victims of Hurricane Sandy can stay in, or return to, their damaged homes during major work, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and federal officials an nounced Wednesday.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is offering new, supplemental aid aimed at helping New Yorkers button up their houses and fix some electrical and plumbing problems to avoid staying in shelters at a time when hotel vacancies are scarce in New York City and on Long Island.

"Now it is time to restore and rebuild these homes, and help people get back in their homes in time for winter," Cuomo said.

FEMA’s Michael Byrne said the program is new. He said New York presented a unique housing challenge to FEMA that couldn’t be addressed by available rental housing, hotels or temporary housing units.

The immediate repairs include fixing electric meters and exterior damage, replacing doors, putting tarps on roofs, and other minor structural and electrical work. The program is available in counties with federal disaster declarations.

The teams will include more than 1,000 contractors and other experts from local unions and the Long Island Builders Institute, said the institute’s Mitch Pally. He said it is easier on recovery efforts to keep New York City and Long Island residents in their homes while major repairs are under way.

Teams assigned by FEMA will evaluate the work and then dispatch contractors who will be reimbursed by the federal agency. New Yorkers need to contact their city or county government to take part in the Emergency Assistance program.

FEMA said to inquire about the program, call 800-621-3362.