Assemblyman Held Hearing Today to Receive Update from Victims on the Eve of the Four-Year Anniversary of the Storm
On the eve of the four-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, Assembly Regulatory Oversight Committee Chairman Reed Gusciora held a hearing today to receive an update from families devastated by the disaster.
During the hearing Gusciora and committee members heard from residents who have encountered nightmares ranging from contractor fraud to bureaucratic mistakes and incompetency, including one woman whose family was defrauded by a state-approved contractor that cheated residents up and down the state post-Sandy; another man who had to contact his federal representative in order to get answers from his own state government; and another woman whose family was awarded a $150,000 RREM (Rehabilitation, Reconstruction, Elevation and Mitigation) grant and was later told they owed the state $50,000 back and had 30 days to repay it, pushing them to the edge of financial insolvency.
“Many of the stories we heard today were heartbreaking, but they were also infuriating because bureaucratic incompetence compounded an already devastating situation and made it nearly unbearable for many victims. The common refrain that we heard today is that the administration and the Department of Community Affairs, in particular, have failed Sandy victims.
“It’s clear that the administration and this legislature need to do more to help get these families back in their homes and also ensure that when the next disaster occurs it doesn’t take this long for residents to rebuild their lives. Based on what we heard today, greater transparency, improved communication, and a more prudent administration of federal funds are just some of the areas in need of vast improvement.
“We have legislation (A-333) that has passed the Assembly and is working its way through the Senate that will hopefully be headed to the Governor soon. It would address many of these issues by ensuring project deadline fairness, enhancing transparency, and establishing a foreclosure protection and mortgage relief program for Sandy-impacted victims. For a Governor who staked his whole second term on his handling of Sandy, it would behoove him to approve this legislation swiftly when it reaches his desk.
“These are the pressing issues facing us in the here and now, but we also need to adopt a forward-thinking approach. Countless studies show that these types of severe weather events are far more likely to occur in the future and we can’t afford to bury our head in the sand any longer.
“As one gentleman pointed out today, most residents have moved on with their lives and Sandy is just a distant memory, but for a number of families the devastation still continues. That’s just unacceptable,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon).