Does the homeowner hire the contractor?
The homeowner hires the contractor with assistance from the state. We want to make sure that the work is being done by someone who’s registered to do work here in the state and that the contractor is licensed, bonded, insured, and has the appropriate experience to do that work. We don’t want to be in a situation where, going back to the Gulf Coast states, you had contractors coming around and offering homeowner vacations in order to be chosen. We also want to make sure that contractors aren’t overcharging. So we, as a state, are going to help oversee that process, but ultimately the agreement is going to be between the homeowner and the contractor.
There will be a pool of contractors who will be able to do this work. The onus is on the contractor to get on the list. We want the list to be populated with small business as well as larger construction management firms. It’s our hope that we’ll have thousands of contractors on the list. We’ll work with homeowners to make sure that we choose contractors who can do the work for them.
To the extent that a homeowner has a contractor they’re working with already, that contractor could potentially do the work, assuming that they’re licensed, bonded, insured, and have the appropriate level of experience and won’t overcharge the homeowner.
What if someone’s not happy with the contractor they’re assigned?
Assuming the contractor’s not doing the work, then we’ll get them a different contractor that will do the work. If unhappy just means, that they had a mild dust-up, then we’ll try to intervene, but it can’t be about personalities, it has to be about the work. So if the contractor is not doing the elevation that they bargained for, then we’ll either insure that the contractor does the elevation, or we’ll find another contractor to do that work.
Are applications processed on a first-come, first served basis?
The focus is on homeowners who are most in need – by income, damage, and location. So those who are low to moderate income will be prioritized over those of higher income. In need in terms of damage, those whose homes are substantially damaged will be prioritized over homes who had moderate damage. Then homes in the more impacted counties. For example, Monmouth, Ocean, and Atlantic Counties sustained 70 percent of the damage from Superstorm Sandy. So we want to insure that as we’re ascertaining eligibility, that we insure that those counties that were impacted the most have homeowners that receive the majority of the awards.
How do you do that?
We subcontracted work to a consulting firm that has worked on these types of matters in the past in the Gulf Coast state and they have a model that randomizes and then prioritizes [applications.]
There’s no formal deadline, but at some point, we have to start evaluating and processing. And what we’ll do because we suspect we’ll have more homeowners in need and who are interested in these programs than we have funding for.
It won’t be you applied on May 24th, you’re higher on the list than someone who applied June 24th. It’ll random. So it doesn’t matter when you applied.
So when do you start the randomization and prioritization?
The first application period closes June 30. So July 1, we’ll do the randomization, prioritization, and that’s when we’ll starting letting folks know if they’ve received an award. Starting July 1, we will process [applications] on a first-received, first-evaluated basis, but will still prioritize those in need.
When do you expect to people to start receiving their awards?
For the Resettlement Program, we anticipate that homeowners can avail themselves of that in July. The RREM program because of all the things involved – the estimator, assignment, and then actually getting the work – will likely start in August when the work is assigned. They’ll have interaction with the RREM contractors in July, but in terms of when the construction starts will likely be in August.
This is a more complicated approach than merely sending homeowners a check. Did you weigh the pros and cons of being more involved and having to oversee all of these logistics?
We want to get this right. We want to do right by the state. We want to do right by the homeowners. And while speed is what everyone wants – and that’s what we want as well – history has told us that post-disaster, if you just hand people money and don’t watch what’s going on, the result that you want – which is homeowners to be helped and communities to be rebuilt – that’s not what you’re going to get. So obviously we are mindful of the fact that folks want the money and they want it quickly, but discretion is the better part of valor and we want to be smart about this.
To apply: http://renewjerseystronger.org or call 1-855-SANDYHM (726-3946)