Moving to provide relief for New Jersey homeowners who have fallen victim to contractor fraud as a result of Hurricane Sandy, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Vince Mazzeo and John Armato was advanced by the full Assembly on Thursday by a vote of 76-0.
“To this day, there are families who have yet to move back in to their homes after Sandy,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “Some were scammed by contractors who had promised to help make repairs. Others have struggled to afford significant reconstruction. This legislation will make it easier for Sandy-affected homeowners to be reimbursed if they experienced contractor fraud.”
The measure (A-4529) would require the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) to distribute fraud-response funding regardless of whether an applicant presents a document indicating that the their contractor has been charged with a crime involving fraud or theft by deception. The document, often referred to as a “charging document”, would not be required so long as a government agency has provided written notification as defined by the bill. This policy would only concern contract work in relation to the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation, and Mitigation Program (RREM) or the Low-to-Moderate Income Homeowners Rebuilding Program (LMI), which were established by DCA to distribute federal funding allocated towards recovery from Superstorm Sandy.
“Seven years later, countless New Jersey residents are still feeling the effects of Sandy,” said Armato (D-Atlantic). “It will take time for families whose homes were destroyed or significantly damaged to get back on their feet. Unfortunately, some storm victims also became victims of contractor fraud while trying to repair their homes. We need to do all we can to help families rebuild and recover from Sandy, starting with making sure they have the resources they need.”
Under the bill, an applicant would not be entitled to a fraud-response funding award if any portion of the award would amount to a duplicate benefit or would otherwise violate another provision of state or federal law.
The measure now heads to the Senate for further consideration.