(MintPress) – More than three months after Hurricane Sandy struck the East coast, thousands of people in New York and New Jersey are still stuck in limbo. Having lost homes and businesses, they are still waiting for their upended lives to return to normal.
While Congress finally passed a $50.5 billion aid package last month, much of it is complicated by red tape and not all of it is going directly to the victims.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Wednesday sketched out a plan for how to spend the initial $1.77 billion in federal money the city has received so far. Much of the initial allocation, $720 million worth, will go toward repairing and rebuilding homes and rebuilding infrastructure.
The administration is still developing a proposal for the rest. The blueprint still requires federal approval and a public comment period.
Meanwhile, the list of problems for those affected by Sandy is endless, and the viable solutions are few and far between. While there has been widespread criticism of the government’s response to the crisis, many concerned individuals have put on their thinking caps to come up with ways to bridge the gap.
Former Brooklynite Hans Trupp, for one, has an offer he says is tailor-made for retirees.
Trupp, owner of Savannah Lakes Resort in McCormick, S.C., says he will provide lakefront accommodations for displaced people at a fraction of the going rate. The resort is part of a community of some 2,000 residents, many of them retired and from the Northeast.
“If they are looking at weeks or months of misery in the winter, they should get out of there. If they want to stay for three months or for 18 months, we’ll let them. The whole objective is to try to help them,” Trupp tells Mint Press News.
For $650 a month, including utilities, local and long distance phone calls and Internet service, those who don’t need to be close to home while they wait to rebuild or receive insurance benefits can stay in an 80-room lodge situated on the shores of Lake Thurmond in the middle of 120,000 acres of national park land.
Also included in the price is the use of the recreation center and tennis courts, miniature golf course, beach, outdoor pool and marina with boat rentals. Bigger groups can upgrade to one of eight two-bedroom townhouses. And, says Krupp, unlike many rentals, neither a deposit nor a year-long lease is required.
Krupp’s real estate company had shut down the resort a couple of years ago for refurbishment and was about to reopen it when Sandy hit.
“I grew up in Brooklyn and it has always had a warm place in my heart, and I could relate to what was going on,” he explained. “I thought we could offer it to victims for cheap and they would have be able to relieve some of the problems there in New York and New Jersey. So we came up with a plan to make it available.”
The normal rate is $99 a day, or more than $3,000 a month. “This doesn’t make economic sense for us,” Trupp said, “but we are making a conscious effort to try to make people’s lives better.”
Bailing out business
Other Brooklyn natives are working to support small businesses struggling to get back on their feet.
Bit By Bit Mobile, a technology-driven marketing agency with headquarters in Sheepshead Bay, says it plans to offer its revolutionary mobile platform to business owners affected by the storm.
“We were also victims personally and business-wise. The day I was suppose to start work was the day Sandy hit the Brooklyn shores,” Managing Director Jefferey Cornett tells Mint Press News.
“We have seen daily how businesses are working to recover, and the business they have lost,” he continued. “And while marketing is the last thing on their budget, it should be at the top. So we decided to use our experience in marketing and technology to help.”
Bit By Bit is providing nine businesses in Brooklyn, Jersey City, N.J. and the Financial District in Manhattan with one to two months of complete mobile marketing services free of charge.
“If I am a business owner, I want everyone to know that I am back in business,”explained Cornett. He says the application allows small businesses to reach customers on their mobile phone and provide them with updated information, special offers and loyalty points.
“We want to help jump start recovery for theses businesses and encourage others to match our efforts,” Cornett said.
“After all, these are not just businesses, they’re friends, family — and it will take us all working together to rebuild bit by bit.”
Students get A for effort
Meanwhile, on the same day that Congress passed the $50.5 billion relief package for victims of Sandy, students in a suburban Chicago school district handed over a check of their own.
“I think that’s pretty awesome,” said Will Parker, 10, who is in the fourth grade at Harper School in Wilmette, Ill. “The Congress is really big, and we’re just a couple of schools doing this, so I think it’s kind of cool that we’ve already done it and it’s taken them months to do it.”
Students from six different schools took part in the fundraising drive, holding special events such as read-a-thons, running laps, shooting “Hoops for Help” and collecting “Hats for Hurricanes.”
At nearby Central School, students took a different sort of hands-on approach, collecting 15 large boxes of school supplies that were sent to a school in Union Beach, N.J.
“We got word that the supplies were received,” Central School Principal Rebecca Littman told the Chicago Tribune. “At the same time, we learned that there’s still a lot that needs to be done at the school. We decided to develop a long-term relationship with the school.”
Closer to one of the areas hit hardest by the hurricane, several students at the Cranbury School, an elementary school in New Jersey, took time out of their recent holiday break to go caroling around town to raise money for Sandy relief, raising more than $300 for Donorschoose.org, an online charity that connects people to classrooms in need throughout the country.
Also in New Jersey, art students from Westwood Regional High School and Middle School are selling their work to raise money. The exhibit, called “WWRSD has heART,” features 14 images on the theme of “have a heart,” and will be on display at the Westwood Gallery until Feb. 16.
And two juniors at New Jersey’s Princeton High School have organized a benefit dessert hour and concert at the school’s performing arts center. The event, to be held at the school’s performing arts center on Feb. 22, will feature several student music groups.
“I’d been wanting to do something to raise money, but not just the traditional quick fundraiser where you sell baked goods and you’re done,” organizer Andrew Goldstein, who enlisted the help of classmate Mollie Chen to stage the benefit, told Planet Princeton.
The money will go to the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund launched by Gov. Chris Christie and his wife. On Tuesday, U2 frontman Bono and NBC news anchor Brian Williams became the newest board members of the fund, joining Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi.
So far, it has raised more than $32 million from more than 22,000 donors worldwide.