The Christie administration and its supporters had a strong reaction last week to a report claiming that many New Jerseyans were unfairly denied Hurricane Sandy relief benefits and the administration decided to reopen the appeals process for some. Fair Share Housing Associate Director Kevin Walsh told NJTV News Managing Editor Mike Schneider that he does not know how many people were wrongly denied, but it needs to be investigated.
Last week on NJTV News, Sen. Jennifer Beck spoke to Schneider on the same topic. Walsh said that he thought that it was interesting that Beck chose to criticize Fair Share Housing because at the same time that the interview was airing, Walsh was getting press statements that the administration was changing its position on the matter and agreed with Fair Share Housing’s position.
Walsh said that he got word that Fair Share Housing had helped change the Christie administration’s policy.
“The other thing to note about Beck’s comments were that they were completely factually inaccurate. I just want to set the record straight. Beck suggested that the federal government was to blame for the data mix-up and they caused thousands of people to be denied funding when they should have been granted funding. New York state knew all along that the data that was used was limited in its usefulness and it adjusted that,” Walsh said.
Walsh does not think that New Jersey received good advice from consultants who travel around the state and country to help governments respond to disasters.
“HUD all along told the state that it should use the data, but everybody — HUD, FEMA, New York, Fair Share Housing, the state of New Jersey — should have known that there are limitations to that data and you need to make adjustments,” Walsh said.
Walsh said that he does not know if people were wrongly denied based on the data, but those are the sorts of questions that in the aftermath of Friday’s announcement need to be investigated.
“Between 3,000 to 4,000 people were denied and did not receive and did not appeal and so if you apply the same 80 percent error rate to those folks, there are certainly 2,000 or 3,000 more — if not more — who are likely to be eligible now when they weren’t before. We are excited that they are going to get a chance to recover that. They should not have been denied,” Walsh said.