Pallone says legislation is not necessary, regulators can change the rules
Governor Chris Christie told the 650 people in attendance at his Town Hall Meeting in Belmar yesterday that he went to Washington last week to ask HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan to waive the rule that is keeping Sandy victims from rebuilding their homes while they are waiting to find out if they will be approved for Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) grants of up to $150,000.
The RREM program will not reimburse homeowners for work done on their homes prior to their acceptance into the program. Over 3000 people are on the RREM waiting list for the second round of HUD funding which is expected to be awarded late this spring. They are in limbo, living in temporary housing, paying rent and mortgages, while their ruined homes are dormant.
Christie said that Donovan told him he could not waive the rule because a specific federal law prohibits grants being used to pay for work performed prior to the federal approval being secured.
RREM has been a frequent topic at the Governor’s Town Halls this year, as residents have complained about the delays in application processing and of the requirement that they not rebuild while waiting for an answer on their grant request. Christie has consistently blamed the federal rules for the delays and encouraged residents to contact their congressman and senators for help. Christie’s remarks in Belmar were the first explanation he’s offered from a federal cabinet level official.
Christie reminded the Belmar crowd that, despite the criticism his administration has received over the distribution of RREM funds, Donovan has stated publicly that federal relief funds in New Jersey have been distributed at a faster pace than in any previous natural disaster.
Last Thursday in Keansburg at Senate President Steve Sweeney’s 30 person Town Hall, Congressman Frank Pallone said that legislation is not necessary and that he’s trying to get regulators to ease the rules for Sandy victims, many of whom live in his Monmouth and Middlesex County congressional district. Pallone also said the witnessed federal employees encourage residents to get started in rebuilding their homes in the aftermath of Sandy, with the promise that they would be reimbursed for the work.
But over the weekend, Pallone was back to playing politics with Sandy victims and placing the blame for mismanagement of RREM fund on Christie. Saturday, outside the Monmouth County Democratic Convention, Pallone told former MMM contributor Olivia Nuzzi, now a reporter for The Daily Beast, that he was embarrassed to face Congressional Republicans who opposed Sandy Relief for New Jersey and New York, because the were right about their concerns that money would be mishandled.
Speaking with his mouth full of an apple he was chomping on, Pallone told Nuzzi,
“When we were trying to get the money for Sandy, part of the opposition that was coming from the Western and Southern states was that they claimed the money would go down a rat hole and be mismanaged.”
Pallone said it was embarrassing “that it actually happened” like those Republicans said it would. “I have to go back to the very people who said ‘I didn’t want to vote for this because it wasn’t going to be managed properly’ now that they’ve been proven right.” Pallone took a bite of his apple. “It’s very sad.”
Nuzzi wouldn’t say if Pallone was spitting apple crumbs while speaking with his mouth full, or if there was apple juice dripping down his chin.
Pallone should 1) Stop talking with his mouth full, 2) Stop playing politics with Sandy victims and help them.
Pallone can help his constituents who are still displaced from their homes by finding out what law Donovan was referring to with Christie and get it amended. Pallone has only had 6 pieces of legislation become law during his 26 years in congress. He should ask Senator Bob Menendez and Congressman Chris Smith for help. Smith and Mendendez know how to get laws passed.