Truth Frequency Radio
Oct 30, 2014

Homeland Security News Wire

It has been two years since Hurricane Sandy destroyed thousands of homes and businesses along the Jersey Shore yet many affected homeowners are still waiting for federal and state aid to rebuild. Of the $3.26 billion the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has provided to New Jersey, only $802 million has been paid out as of 30 September. The federal government’s first allocation of Sandy funds to New Jersey came seven months after the storm. The state has yet to issue any of the $1.46 billion approved by HUD in May, and New Jersey officials expect a final round of $880 million next spring.

It has been two years since Hurricane Sandy destroyed thousands of homes and businesses along the Jersey Shore yet many affected homeowners are still waiting for federal and state aid to rebuild. Of the $3.26 billion the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has provided to New Jersey, only $802 million has been paid out as of 30 September. The federal government’s first allocation of Sandy funds to New Jersey came seven months after the storm. The state has yet to issue any of the $1.46 billion approved by HUD in May, and New Jersey officials expect a final round of $880 million next spring.

Upon receiving the last round of federal aid, New Jersey will be able to provide grants to all residents on the waiting list for the state’s main housing fund, the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation, and Mitigation (RREM) program, which awards homeowners grants of up to $150,000. To date, the state has issued $10,000 grants to 18,500 people to encourage them to remain in their communities.

The Inquirer reports that some New Jersey residents have also received aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which has allocated $422 million in housing and other assistance.

For those on the waiting list to receive aid, the recovery effort is slower than expected. “Why, after two years, are people still out of their homes?” said Sandy Trebour, who has been rebuilding her home with help from a flood-insurance payout but still needs a RREM grant to complete the work. “I don’t know how anything can take two years when you have people out of their homes,” she said.

A Monmouth University Polling Institute survey of 630 New Jersey residents who were forced to evacuate their homes for at least a month after Sandy or whose home sustained $8,000 in damages, found out that 40 percent were still displaced. Only 33 percent of study participants reported being satisfied with the state’s recovery effort, and 71 percent said they felt they had been forgotten. The researchers, however, noted that the survey results statistically do not represent the broader population of residents recovering from Sandy.

Of the 8,900 homeowners pre-approved for the state’s RREM program, roughly 50 percent had signed grant agreements as of last week, and as of 30 September, the state had allocated $285 million to homeowners in the program. An additional 2,100 people remain on the program’s waiting list, and more people could be eligible for grants depending on a state review of applications initially rejected.

New Jersey fired Hammerman & Gainer Inc., a Louisiana firm that oversaw a Hurricane Katrina grant program, after six months on the job after it concluded that the firm contracted to review grant applications improperly rejected numerous applications. In a settlement agreement with several advocacy groups, New Jersey in May agreed to review the rejected applications.

The state’s effort to issue recovery aid has come under fire for other reasons including allegations of politicizing the grant process, and complaints of slow processing time. Lisa Ryan, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs said that the state is now allowing grant applications to be submitted via e-mail and fax instead of in-person submissions at a housing center. Grant recipients also now have an option to receive a 50 percent advanced payment upon signing a grant award, and to choose their own contractors.

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