There are mounting calls to make the Sandy relief process a lot more transparent and Assemblyman John Burzichelli told NJTV News Managing Editor Mike Schneider that he has great concern that the process is not moving as fast as it should be.
Burzichelli said a lot of progress has been made and a lot of people have received help, but in the end New Jersey will not be judged by the successes that occurred but by what hasn’t happened and what failures are left. He said said that a number of questions were raised yesterday and he doesn’t know that a lot of the questions were answered. He said that he may have gotten some answers but they are obscure and have to be sorted out. The legislature has a great deal of information that Burzichelli would like to have that he doesn’t have regarding how some of the contracts have been made and the people who have been selected, he said.
According to Burzichelli, in normal bidding rules in New Jersey at the municipal level, if a contractor had an issue or was fired from a previous job, that contractor would likely be disqualified. He said that the commissioner told him that there were very few choices of who was available to do this kind of work because New Jersey got into the process late — 18 months after the storm. He said New Jersey is at a point where the state has a lot of experience interfacing with the federal government and he doesn’t know why the state has to rely on other contractors and hasn’t been able to assemble this in a different way at this point in the program.
Burzichelli said that all of the steps in the relief program were designed to deter fraud and abuse because there are always groups that would try to abuse the system. But he said the rules may be too stringent. He said those who listened to the testimony yesterday heard that 80 percent of the people who were deemed ineligible, upon further review were deemed to be eligible.
“I don’t know that I would say that I lost confidence but I will tell you that I have a very great concern that at the moment we are not moving fast enough because our brothers, sisters, residents, neighbors who went throughout this and suffered a hurricane, for those who are still out of their homes or have businesses that are eligible and have not gotten the relief that they need from the municipalities that are struggling. They are still in a hurricane, their issue is not resolved,” said Burzichelli. “For people who look and say we have too much government and now suddenly want the government to fix it instantly, you have to realize there are limitations and maybe this conversation should not have been at the very beginning that everything’s fixed and been more forthright to be people and said this is going to be a long road because this is a long road.”