HUD deputy secretary tours NJ towns ravaged by Ida's flooding

ELIZABETH, New Jersey (WABC) -- Weeks after the remnants of Hurricane Ida slammed New Jersey, families and businesses are still trying recover from devastating and historic flooding.

On Monday, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Deputy Secretary Adrianne Todman toured Englewood and Elizabeth to see the damage up close.

Mayor Chris Bollwage led Todman on her visit of the homes in Elizabeth, still silent and empty weeks after Ida left flood waters more than 6 feet high.

Four people died in apartments along the river.

"There are some units in the back near the river where the people died," Bollwage said. "Those units will not be reoccupied for a long time."

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Earlier, Todman toured Englewood, where HUD housing was also left flooded and unfit for living.

"What I've learned is that we're going to have to partner up with this mayor and the state to make sure that the families can come back here in a way that's safe and smart," she said.

Remediation continues, with progress in Elizabeth at a point where some of the units will soon be ready again for families.

"Sixteen units will move back in this weekend," Bollwage said. "And we're hopeful that by the end of next week, an additional 40 units will move back in."

Cerise Simmon, a mother of three, had an apartment there.

"I'm living outside in my car," she said. "My kids had to go to Roselle to say with their grandmother."

Simmon says she can't stay with her mother because of Section 8 rules, that she'd been given one option, to move two hours away to Atlantic City which would have meant taking her son out of his special needs classes in Elizabeth's school system.

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She says that would have been traumatizing to him.

"All they had to do was call Elizabeth Section 8 and give everybody that was here Section 8," she said. "But they pick and choose who they want to give Section 8 vouchers to. What made me any different where I couldn't get Section 8, so I could put my kids where it would be beneficial for me and my kids."

Bollwage said it's a complicated situation.

"The problem is, many people want to stay here," he said. "Because of the eviction moratorium that's in place due to COVID, there are not a lot of empty units for people to move into."

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