When water came pouring into their home during Sandy last year, it caused major damage to the home, and wiped out the make shift ramp Joseph made for Aldea after a stroke she had several years ago.
The house has mostly been repaired, all except for the ramp. But that will soon be repaired, under a new state grant.
The couple this week became the first recipients of the state's Ramp Rebuild, Replacement and Installation Program, made possible through a $2.89 million federal Social Services Block Grant (SSBG), administered through the New Jersey Department of Human Services' (DHS) Division of Disability Services.
"This is exactly the type of situation this grant is designed to address," said DHS Commissioner Jennifer Velez during a visit to the Tomlinsons' home yesterday. "This couple has endured many hardships, but with this funding, financing the rebuilding of a ramp won't be one of them. I'm thrilled to be here today and to surprise them with the good news that we are building them a new ramp."
In the three weeks since DHS began accepting applications for the program, more than a hundred inquiries have been received from individuals with disabilities and families living with a person with disabilities who need a ramp repaired, replaced or installed because of Sandy's destruction. Many must raise their flood-prone homes and will need a ramp in order to access the door.
To be eligible, applicants must provide proof of loss or need, and present a medical certification confirming the presence of a disability that requires a ramp. The Division of Disability Services (DDS) will then dispatch an evaluator to determine whether a ramp can safely be built. Ramp design details will then be drafted and a drawing of possible designs will be offered to the recipient for consideration. The DDS would then send the schematic out to a list of qualified vendors - selected through RFP - to bid on the construction of the project.
"The ability to enter and egress a residence safely is critical for people with disabilities," said Joseph Amoroso, Director of DDS, who was also at the Tomlinsons yesterday. "This ramp gives the Tomlinsons back their independence, safety and self-sufficiency."
The Ramp Rebuild, Replacement and Installation Program provides modular ramps - which are portable and can cost several thousands of dollars depending on the configuration - made from metal, wood or fiberglass to eligible applicants. They are custom built to the client's needs. Installation can take a few days or a week depending on the project specifications.
"This would be such a blessing," said Joseph Tomlinson, when interviewed after submitting an application. "Since the storm, our caregiver and I have had to carry my wife in and out. Somehow we've managed, but this ramp would certainly make things a lot easier."
SSBG funding is crucial to preserving the social services safety net in the areas most impacted by Superstorm Sandy. In the months and years to come, these services will be essential to rebuilding and restoring residents' very basic needs in storm recovery.
Individuals interested in applying for the Ramp Rebuild, Replacement and Installation Program can call DDS at 1-888-285-3036. Ramps will be built for eligible applicants until the funding is exhausted.