(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assemblywomen Sheila Oliver, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Annette Quijano and Pamela Lampitt to create better oversight to safeguard the distribution of Hurricane Sandy recovery funds was approved by an Assembly panel on Monday.
“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 bill (A-2293) would require the State Treasurer to issue New Jersey’s Comprehensive Hurricane Sandy Recovery Funding Report. 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 interests.”
“Every day it becomes more apparent that the recovery process is mired in incompetence and mismanagement,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “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.”
The report would be due on April 1, 2014, with updated issues of the report due every 30 days thereafter until all Hurricane Sandy recovery funding has been spent and reported.
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 complaints from victims, the Christie administration quietly terminated ties with the contractor with little to no explanation.
The bill would take effect immediately. The measure was approved by the Assembly State Government Committee and now awaits consideration by the full Assembly.