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Queens Chronicle

Cuomo steers storm aid to healthcare

$200M allocated for clinics, child care, mental hygiene, senior centers

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Posted: Thursday, August 1, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:40 am, Thu Aug 8, 2013.

Gov. Cuomo announced last week that he would allocate $200 million in Sandy aid money toward child care, healthcare and senior centers damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Sandy and unable to cover the entire cost for recovery.

After the storm, much of South Queens’ health and human services facilities were left in ruins and all across the disaster zone — even nine months later — services are still scattered and struggling.

The funding will come in the form of social services block grants and will cover structural repairs, renovations of facilities and costs that are child care-related as well as nutritional, such as kitchen appliances.

“During and after Hurricane Sandy, New York State’s health and human service providers performed critical work for New Yorkers, and they continue to be essential resources to communities recovering from the storm,” Cuomo said in a press release last week. “These organizations serve the needs of many of the state’s most vulnerable residents including our seniors, children and low-income families, and in their line of work, they have also suffered financial losses and damage to their facilities from the storm. This funding will provide the support they need to continue helping their communities, and I urge those impacted to apply for this assistance.”

New York State submitted its funding plan to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services — the head of which, Secretary Shawn Donovan, is the federal government’s point person on Sandy recovery — on June 30, and the plan was approved by the federal agency on July 22

Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Park) praised Cuomo’s decision, and said he hoped some of it would go to Far Rockaway’s St. John’s Hospital, the only full hospital on the peninsula and the only one in the borough that suffered damage in Sandy.

“In the aftermath of Sandy, St. John’s Hospital’s services were crucial for our community and they continue to be an essential resource for our families,” he said. “I think a significant portion of this funding should go to St. John’s.”

Goldfeder noted that the hospital not only serves Queens, but also some Nassau County neighborhoods.

Cuomo’s decision was also good news to many who own daycare and healthcare organizations who are still looking to get back on their feet since Sandy. Many daycares and doctors’ offices operate out of private homes in heavily residential southern Queens that were badly damaged in Sandy and rebuilding has moved at a slow place.

Frances Scarantino said her Howard Beach daycare center, Reach for the STARS, lost everything in Sandy and is still not up and running.

“We’re at about 95 percent now,” she said, noting that before the storm, there were 16 children registered in her daycare. “I know some of them aren’t even back into their homes. We’ve been trying to accommodate them in different ways.”

Scarantino said she would be interested in applying for a block grant for her daycare center, but wasn’t sure if it would also cover the youth center, STARS, that she runs in Coleman Square. The center’s facility was flooded by nearly 10 feet of water in the storm. It opened a few months after the storm, but is still not operating back at normal.

“We’re not 100 percent back in yet,” she said. “I paid for the costs of the fixes out of my pocket and took out loans.”

Sephora Rosario, a spokeswoman for Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens, saidher organization will also be applying for grant money as part of Cuomo’s program to cover some of the costs endured by the Howard Beach Senior Center, whose former facility at the Rockwood Park Jewish Center was destroyed in Sandy. The center was later displaced and taken over by Catholic Charities.

Healthcare and human service providers can submit applications for funding through Aug. 30 at nysandyhelp.ny.gov.

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