RedBankGreen is reporting that the Borough of Sea Bright has ended its participation of a federal pilot program set up to get residents displaced by Superstorm Sandy back into their homes quickly, because..surprise surprise, the Sheltering and Temporary Electric and Power (STEP) program was holding residents back.
Town officials cited indecision and flip-flops over what would be covered by the Federal Emergency Management Administration’s Sheltering and Temporary Electric and Power, or STEP, program as the main the reasons for the withdrawal.
“The goal was to get the residents home,” said Mayor Dina Long. “We thought the STEP program would be very helpful in achieving that goal, but ultimately it turned out to be unworkable.”
STEP, introduced to New Jersey by Governor Chris Christie in early December, is a pilot program that purports to provide battered homes with temporary heating, hot water, suitable flooring and electricity in order to get displaced residents back into their own houses as soon as possible. FEMA provided 75 percent of the $10,000 worth of fixes per eligible home, and 130 Sea Bright residents applied to take part in the program, starting six weeks ago, town officials said.
But “because STEP was a pilot program, there were no set guidelines, and the town wasn’t able to get clear direction on what supplies and labor would be eligible for reimbursement, as well as which types if households would be eligible for reimbursement,” Long told redbankgreen. “That, along with an inability to receive written guidance and multiple changes in key personnel, has made this a frustrating effort for us over the last two months.”
She also said that in multiple cases, houses that were at first deemed eligible were subsequently denied acceptance into the program due to shifting guidelines.
“In the end, we had to disqualify more people than we qualified,” she said.
As an alternative, Mayor Dina Long and the borough council created their own program to assist the 130 displaced residents who were tripped up by STEP. Funded by a portion of a Special Emergency Note, the local program will give residents $5,000 for repairs. STEP promised $10,000 but wasn’t delivering.