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Know Your Rights
Source: Daily News
Subject: Housing & Environmental Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Immigrants are hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy

Hard-hit immigrant communities are getting little Hurricane Sandy aid and displaced residents looking for new homes face a spike in rent, a report expected to be released Tuesday says.

Maria Raquel Sanchez [member of Make the Road New York] and her family escaped their Midland Beach apartment — but without a job or access to federal aid, she wonders how they will save enough to rent a new place.

“Where are we going to get all of that money?” said Sanchez, 50. The Mexican native lost her job as a nanny after the storm. Many storm-hit immigrants are in a similar quandary, according to a new study by non-profit Make the Road New York, which is calling on the city and state to give rent help to immigrants who don’t qualify for federal aid.

The group’s survey of more than 400 immigrant residents in Sandy-ravaged areas of Staten Island and Long Island found one in three had damage to home or property but only 22% have applied for public or private disaster relief.

A large number, including Sanchez, do not qualify for federal disaster unemployment insurance or FEMA’s cash-assistance programs for temporary housing or to replace damaged posessions because they are either here illegally or have a temporary work permit and legal status but no green card.

Undocumented immigrants may apply for some benefits on behalf of U.S. citizen children – but some told surveyors that FEMA staffers in Long Beach, L.I. turned them away or did not clearly explain how to fill out this paperwork.

Many displaced immigrant tenants have been unable to recover security deposits from their landlords, according to the survey. They told researchers new rents are as much as 50% higher in storm-ravaged neighborhoods than what they paid before Sandy. Some said they decided to return to mold-filled apartments because they couldn’t afford to rent a new home.

Overall, 40% of the immigrants surveyed reported economic troubles due to the storm, and 11% said they had permanently lost their jobs.

“It’s the second wave of devastation that’s affecting these immigrant families,” said Sara Cullinane of Make the Road.

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