WILL DISCUSS TOMORROW AT ‘SANDY BILL OF RIGHTS’ TOUR STOP IN LINDEN
TRENTON – Senate President Steve Sweeney today submitted a plan of action to the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) that calls for more assistance to homeowners and renters during the second phase of Sandy recovery funding. The Senate President’s plan calls for greater use of local, community organizations that have expertise in both housing and New Jersey.
“This plan details what we should have seen during the first phase of Sandy recovery: a concerted, localized effort to get people back into their homes as quickly as possible. We wasted millions on HGI, a company from outside the state that didn’t know New Jersey. Our local, community-based organizations can do this quicker and cheaper,” said Sweeney.
The plan presents a three pronged approach that focuses on treating renters and owners fairly, distributing resources equitably and ensuring transparency through every step of the process. It utilizes Community Resource Recovery Centers to help with disbursement of aid and to act as resource guides for victims of the storm.
“Community Resource Recovery Centers can help New Jersey recover from the storm more effectively and more cost-efficiently,” said Staci Berger, President and CEO of the Housing & Community Development Network of NJ. “We spent over $50 million on HGI for administrative and overhead costs that should have been used to help people rebuild and recover. This plan does right by the people of New Jersey, something that should have been the administration’s goal all along.”
In addition to the plan of action, the Senate President also sent to DCA a copy of his proposed “Sandy Bill of Rights” and a transcript of the February 21st town hall meeting he held with residents in Toms River. A copy of all three documents is attached.
Senate President Sweeney and advocates will be on hand to answer questions about the plan tomorrow when he continues his “Sandy Bill of Rights” tour with a stop in Linden.
The Senate President will stop at the 7th WardRecreationCenter, located at 2907 Tremley Point Road in Linden at 1 p.m., where he will be joined by local officials, advocates and victims of the storm. The center served as a community shelter after the storm. The Tremley Point area around the center was especially hard hit, with dozens of homes lost. More than $900 million in damages occurred in Linden as a result of Sandy.
Last month, Senate President Sweeney introduced legislation that would establish a “Sandy Bill of Rights.” The bill of rights would do several things, including requiring a plain language explanation of what is needed to be eligible and to apply for Sandy recovery programs; the right to know where your relief application stands and what additional information is needed; the right to know why your application was rejected or why you were placed on a waiting list and the right to appeal a denial of funding.
Recent media accounts and advocacy groups have reported various problems in the Sandy aid process. For example, some families were being told they would lose their aid for failure to provide certain documents, while others were given no such ultimatum. In other instances, numbers show that funding has been denied at higher rates for African American and Latino residents despite being equally hard hit by the storm. Only 4% of available funding has been distributed.
A line of victims told a legislative committee that a state contractor responsible for getting people back in their homes had repeatedly lost their applications and often couldn’t answer the most basic of questions. The Christie administration quietly cancelled the contract with this firm, and state officials have said little about how they will proceed with this critical task.
This will be the fourth stop on the tour. Previously, the Senate President met with victims and advocates in Perth Amboy, TomsRiver and Moonachie.
Read the letter and plan of action submitted to the Department of Community Affairs here: Sandy Plan of Action.