By DAVID B. CARUSO
NEW YORK (AP) a¿¿ A year after Superstorm Sandy catastrophically flooded hundreds of miles of eastern U.S. coastline, thousands of people still trying to fix their soaked and surf-battered homes are being stymied by bureaucracy, insurance disputes and uncertainty over whether they can even afford to rebuild.
Billions of dollars in federal aid appropriated months ago by Congress have yet to reach homeowners who need that money to move on. Many have found flood insurance checks weren't nearly enough to cover the damage.
And worse, new federal rules mean many in high-risk flood zones may have to either jack their houses up on stilts or pilings a¿¿ an expensive, sometimes impossible task a¿¿ or face new insurance rates that hit $10,000 or more per year.
"It's just been such a terrible burden," said Gina Maxwell, whose home in Little Egg Harbor, N.J., is still a wreck after filling with 4 feet of water. Contractors say it will cost $270,000 to rebuild a¿¿ about double what the insurance paid out. The family doesn't have the money.
"What do we do with this house? Just give them the deed back?" she said. "My son is 11. He has a little piggy bank in his room. He said, 'Take it, mom.'"
In blue-collar Union Beach, N.J., the owner of the popular restaurant Jakeabob's Bay has come up with only a quarter of the $2 million she needs to rebuild. In Long Beach, a barrier-island city of 33,000 on the coast of New York's Long Island, residents in some neighborhoods say half their neighbors have yet to return.
"I don't think Long Beach is ever going to be what it was," said resident Ginger Matthews.
Sandy roared out of the Atlantic and struck the New York and New Jersey coasts on Oct. 29, 2012. The 1,000-mile-wide mashup of a hurricane and another huge weather system killed at least 182 people in the U.S., according to a count by The Associated Press, and caused an estimated $65 billion in damage.