Politics

Federal Money For Hurricane Sandy Recovery Not In The Hands Of NJ Residents

| by Jared Keever

The federal government sent $1.8 billion in aid money to the state of New Jersey in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. But a new report from the state shows that, more than a year later, only a quarter of that money has made it to residents.

The report states that $1.3 billion of the federal money is "in the pipeline or out the door," according to New Jersey’s Star-Ledger. That number, though, is a bit misleading. There is a vast difference between what is “in the pipeline” and what has actually been distributed. The report, which the state is required to send to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, shows that only a little over $416 million has actually made it “out the door.”

Adam Gordon, an attorney for the Fair Share Housing Center, said that there have been real challenges in getting funds to those in need. 

“There should be more in the hands of residents at this point,” he said.

While state officials had set aside $710 million for grants to fund reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts, complaints from homeowners about a difficult application process and lost paperwork prompted them to fire the contractor in charge of the program.

The report is another piece of bad news for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his administration. 

The New York Times reported last month that the state had drawn scrutiny from the U.S. Senate. 

Testimony from a hearing convened by New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, a Democrat, revealed racial discrepancies in the application process for grant money. Applications coming from African-Americans to rebuild their homes were rejected at a rate of 2.5 times that of whites. Latinos were rejected 1.5 times more than whites. An analysis by the Fair Share Housing Center showed that 80 percent of those who were rejected turned out to be eligible.

Kevin Roberts, a spokesman from the governor’s office, told the Star-Ledger that despite the known problems “this money is moving faster than in any prior major disaster.”

"Still," he added, "we have been working to improve the programs and get funding to families as quickly as possible.”

Those efforts will hopefully help distribute the additional $1.46 billion in federal money currently on its way to the state.

Sources: Star-Ledger, New York Times