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Schaer on Christie Sandy Relief Veto: Storm Victims Are Paying the Price for the Governor’s Neglect

Assemblyman Gary Schaer on Thursday said Governor Christie’s 11th hour conditional veto of legislation he sponsored to help Superstorm Sandy victims keep their homes effectively killed the bill and could expedite the foreclosure process for many struggling storm victims.

The bill (A-4139) was designed to address the needs of Sandy victims who are eligible to receive disaster relief funds from state or federal sources but, due to the failure of the state to distribute those funds in an expedient manner, have not received the promised financial help.

“More than three years after Sandy devastated New Jersey, the administration still has not adequately or appropriately addressed the needs of those impacted by the storm,” said Schaer (D-Bergen, Passaic). “This legislation would have given families the much-deserved opportunity to get back on their feet, and continue rebuilding their homes and stabilizing their communities.

“This was a critical bill that we sent to the governor in mid-December and he waited nearly a month and sent us back a completely rewritten bill, fraught with legal and logistical questions, with just a few hours remaining in our legislative session. Had he acted sooner, perhaps we could have worked to address these concerns and produce a compromise that still protects storm victims.

“Essentially, the governor’s rewritten bill would have forced homeowners who suffered damage to go to court to stay their foreclosure. We’re talking about folks who have yet to receive their relief aid, who are currently paying a mortgage on a house that is not livable, while paying rent and whatever repair costs are needed to move back into their primary residence. Most of these people do not have the money or time to navigate the burdensome legal system.

“I intend to continue working with families, stakeholders, and my colleagues to make sure homeowners get the relief they need.”

Under the bill, a Sandy victim homeowner who is eligible for the receipt of funds through the Reconstruction Rehabilitation, Elevation, and Mitigation (RREM) program or the Low- to Moderate- Income (LMI) Homeowner’s Rebuilding Program, but who has not yet received those funds, would have been eligible for a stay of foreclosure proceedings, or a forbearance period, during which time mortgage and interest payments would be deferred.

With respect to Sandy victim homeowners who are not in foreclosure, the bill would have authorized a homeowner to apply to the state Department of Community Affairs for a certificate of eligibility for a 36-month mortgage forbearance. During the forbearance period, a homeowner would not have to make mortgage payments. The term of the mortgage would automatically extend, under the same terms, for the number of months the mortgage is in forbearance.

The bill made it clear that the mortgage and interest forbearance would only be available when mortgage foreclosure proceedings have not been instituted for delinquency.

For Sandy victim homeowners who are currently in foreclosure litigation and eligible to receive RREM or LMI funds, the homeowner would have been apply to the court for a stay of proceedings for 36 months, or 60 days after the issuance of a certificate of occupancy for the property damaged by the storm, whichever came sooner.