Six state Senators representing Monmouth and Oceans Counties have written to New Jersey’s U.S. Senators and Members of Congress asking for help in correcting inequities and inefficiencies in the federal government’s response to Superstorm Sanday.
In a letter dated March 31, Senators Jennifer Beck and Joe Kyrillos of Monmouth County, Robert Singer, Christopher Connors and James Holzapfel of Ocean County and Sam Thompson of Middlesex raised six issues concerning Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), the Small Business Administration (SBA), FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program and the Rehabilitation, Reconstruction, Elevation and Mitigation(RREM) grant program.
With all those agencies and initials, how could anything be going wrong?
The senators said the New York has received $4 billion more in HUD funds than New Jersey has, that second round funding for New Jersey has been reduced by $400 million and the RREM program is leaving 4,000 New Jersey residents without assistance.
The National Flood Insurance Program has shortchanged New Jersey residents, the senators say, paying New Jersey insureds only 60% what residents of other states have been reimbursed, and failing to adequately protect flood insurance policy holders who have been paying premiums for years.
HUD’s refusal to reimburse applicants for work done from the time they apply for RREM grants and the closing of those transactions while HUD official check the historical and environmental status of the properties has been a common complaint about the programs. The senators said that the waiting period has been “a minimum of two-three months” as opposed to the two to six weeks advised during the application process. The senators said that HUD has acknowledged that only 1% of the reviews have resulted in historical or environmental issues. The fact that work done prior to RREM funds being applied for is reimbursable defeats HUD’s position that the historical and environmental reviews are critical.
The senators said that the requirement that SBA loans be used instead of RREM grants, and the prohibition of RREM grants repaying SBA loans is a new rule imposed only on New Jersey and New York residents, that has not been in effect in previous disasters. The senators asked for confirmation of this information and help in implementing change.
Finally, the senators said that FEMA’s practice in the Hazard Mitigation Program for house raising of paying only reimbursements for work completed is leaving many residents unable to raise their homes. The senators suggested that the FEMA reimbursements be made payable to non-profits or banks who are willing to advance the money.
The senators said that the many issues related to Sandy recovery should not be used for political fodder and that, “The legacy of how will handle this will survive all of our political careers and our decisions will affect New Jersey residents for many years to come.”
The senators’ letter can be viewed here.