N.J. lawmakers want answers on Sandy aid denials — and a solution

New Jersey lawmakers are examining flaws in the state’s administration of federal Sandy aid — and what can be done to fix them.

The chairman of the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee said he is outraged that thousands of homeowners were wrongly denied funds to repair storm damage and that Latinos were not made aware of the appeals process.

“Continued reliance on a flawed system will undoubtedly yield continued program failure at a time when far too many New Jerseyans are mentally, physically, and financially exhausted,” said Sen. Bob Gordon, D-Bergen.

Even if the state’s decision to reopen the appeals process shows that more people should have qualified for the aid, housing advocates question just how far down the waiting list they’d be put to actually get the money.

That’s the fear of Kevin Walsh with the Fair Share Housing Center.

“If they are appealed and put at the back of the line, it won’t be much of an opportunity because everybody already knows there’s not enough money to fulfill all of those applications needs,” he said. “That’s an issue that the administration should address right away.”

The committee is sending a letter to the state Department of Community Affairs with specific questions about problems with the recovery programs. Gordon said he hoped DCA Commissioner Richard Constable will be at a future hearing with the answers.

The problems surrounding getting funds to those in need may reverberate far beyond New Jersey, said Sen. Paul Sarlo, D-Bergen.

“If we don’t get this right and get this money to the people who it was intended for in a timely and efficient manner, the next tragedy, the next natural disaster that’s going to occur in some state out there, it’s going to be very difficult to get them federal dollars,” he said.

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