A year after Superstorm Sandy destroyed her home in Point Pleasant, N.J., Lori Rebimbas is still displaced.
Rebimbas, 42, and one of her two sons, 10-year-old Nick, spoke with The Times one month after the storm and on Tuesday, when she talked about her difficult, ongoing recovery.
Q: You had problems with the initial contractor who worked on your house. How are things now?
A: It cost us $14,000 out of our pocket to fix the mess he started after he disappeared. He just took off, which is very common in this situation. We said we can’t fix the mess that he made, so we put it up for sale this summer, which didn’t work. People came by offering us $2,000 for the land, which isn’t going to work for me.
Q: Did you find another contractor?
A: We did, but we ran out of money. My flood insurance only paid $150,000, so I’m already out $8,000. You can’t buy appliances or anything because you don’t have any money left. And my lease is up Nov. 15.
Q: What about FEMA rental assistance?
A: FEMA is nothing but a problem. When the first six months of [FEMA rental] assistance ran out in July, they said, well, you should be back in your home. They just fought us and fought us and fought us. We did get the $10,000 grant, which is great, but unfortunately that has to go pay the rent and the mortgage I still have on a house I can’t live in. It’s been a long road.
Q: Is the one year anniversary significant to you?
A: It’s just too depressing to think about. I didn’t go to the house today — I usually go every day. Nicky … I just shut the television off. He remembers though, but he doesn’t want to see the news.
Q: Nick, what are you thinking about today?
A: I just miss my house. And I just want to have my own room.
Q: Lori, what does the house look like now?
A: They put the floors in, but they’re crooked because the first contractor screwed that up. The kitchen is in, but the appliances are still gone. We still don’t have heat. [Nicky] went to the orthodontist last week and he needs $6,000 to fix his teeth. I can’t afford that, so it’s going to have to wait. You just don’t get the help you used to get.
Q: Where are you staying now?
A: I can’t stay in this apartment anymore ... I can’t pay the rent — $1,325 a month plus utilities, and my mortgage is $2,000. I wanted to stay in Point [Pleasant] because of the kids’ schools. My 14-year-old sleeps on mattresses that were donated in the basement. One day we will get home, but the problem is when you get home, you have to start from scratch.
Q: Do you know other people who lost their homes, how are they doing?
A: Most of the people I know are back in. A lot of them didn’t have homeowners insurance, so they got grant money. I had flood insurance, but most of that’s gone. I had a $40,000 insurance policy for content, but they only paid $27,000 and I had $90,000 in damages. Homeowners insurance, I had a $250,000 policy but they denied me because they said it wasn’t a hurricane.
Q: What are you going to do for Thanksgiving?
A: I don’t know. Last year I couldn’t even look at a turkey. I mean, we didn’t have a pan. We’ll probably just get a bite to eat somewhere. It’s being together that matters.
Q: What would you like FEMA or government officials to do now?
A: Some kind of help to go home. My kids just want to go home. But that’s not going to happen.... Christmas is coming … it’s hard. You feel like you’re forgotten. There’s thousands of people like me in this situation.
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