Oliver, Watson Coleman, Quijano, Lagana & Sumter Bill to Increase Oversight of Sandy Funds Clears Assembly

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Sheila Y. Oliver, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Annette Quijano, Joseph Lagana and Shavonda Sumter to require oversight reporting on the distribution of Hurricane Sandy recovery funds on Monday received approval from the Assembly.

The bill (A-2293) would require the state treasurer to issue New Jersey’s Comprehensive Hurricane Sandy Recovery Funding Report on or before November 1. Updated issues would be due every 30 days thereafter until all Hurricane Sandy recovery funding has been spent and reported.

“There have been questions raised about how effectively recovery funding has been used,” said Oliver (D-Essex). “Residents devastated by Sandy should be able to trust that funds slated for recovery are being used properly. This bill adds greater transparency to the process and ensures that recovery funding is administered adequately and in the best interest of those affected by the storm.”

“According to the Fair Share Housing Center, African-American and Latino families affected by the storm have been disproportionately denied relief distribution. This is a serious problem,” said Watson Coleman (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “We must ensure that all residents affected by Sandy are getting the assistance they need. This bill provides the proper oversight necessary to ensure this is done.”

The report must address:

· the amount and manner of recovery funding receipt;

· the processes by which recovery funding is distributed;

· operating plans for recovery funding projects and administration;

· the award of state grants or contracts using recovery funding;

· analysis of whether recovery funding is achieving its objectives;

· recovery funding job creation through State administered projects;

· recommendations for enhanced efficiency, transparency, and coordination in the administration of recovery funding;

· the distribution of recovery funding by county and municipality; and

· any other information the State Treasurer deems relevant to the transparent administration of recovery funding.

“The erroneous denial of thousands of applications, the use of faulty data and a confusing, bureaucracy-heavy process have made the rebuilding and recovery phase a nightmare for many Sandy victims,” said Quijano (D-Union). “It’s time for the administration to correct these mistakes, expedite the recovery and reassure Sandy victims that their government is indeed working in their best interest.”

“The people of New Jersey deserve better than a recovery process plagued by mismanagement,” said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Almost a year and a half after Sandy hit, far too many residents are still displaced. We need assurance that the distribution of recovery funds will be handled more equitably and efficiently moving forward.”

“Families hardest hit by Sandy have already experienced an unthinkable level of stress, due not only to the devastation the storm caused but also due to the ongoing struggle to navigate their way back to normalcy,” said Sumter (D-Bergen/Passaic). “We have a duty to make sure that there is an equitable, transparent process in place as we progress with recovery.”

The sponsors noted that various problems and hurdles with the Sandy aid process have been reported in the media recently, with families receiving conflicting information about requirements for aid eligibility. Questions have also arisen about the competency of a state contractor hired to help get people back in their homes. Amidst concerns from victims, the Christie administration quietly terminated ties with the contractor with little to no explanation.

The bill passed 77-0-0. It now awaits Senate consideration.