Lack of Sandy aid oversight frustrates lawmakers

Some New Jersey lawmakers are criticizing delays in monitoring Sandy recovery funds.

 

While New Jersey law requires reports from integrity monitors for Sandy projects exceeding $5 million, the first has yet to be filed. It’s was supposed to finished several months ago, but now is not expected until July 1.

It’s troubling that it’s taking so long, said Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Gary Schaer, D-Passaic.

“Part of the Legislature’s role is to [monitor] what’s going on, to represent the interests of the people. We’re not getting information back. People can’t make evaluations,” he said Monday during a hearing before his committee. “This is not transparency.”

Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable told lawmakers that the state’s contracts with firms to help with Sandy recovery have been aboveboard.

Complaints that African-Americans and Latinos were disproportionately denied Sandy aid are offensive, Constable said. Many of applications were found ineligible because applicants could not prove they met the damage threshold to get a grant.

A major recovery contractor was fired after some storm victims’ grant applications were lost or improperly rejected. The terminated firm, Hammerman & Gainer Inc., was paid more than half of its $68 million contract, Constable said.

Changes in the administration of the grant program for rebuilding and rehabilitating storm-damaged homes should ensure that applications are no longer being lost, Constable said, and that grants can be approved as quickly as federal requirements allow.

He said he’s confident that the distribution of the second round of federal Sandy aid will go more smoothly.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

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