By Desirée Taylor
Senate President Steve Sweeney and a panel of legislators got an earful from Linden residents impacted by Superstorm Sandy — residents like NAME???. He had to foot the entire bill to repair his home, he says, because his request for Sandy aid was denied.
“FEMA never helped. I applied three times and I did not even get a penny,” said Jack Horta.
Sweeney says his legislation, called the “Sandy Bill of Rights,” will address these issues. It will explain eligibility requirements, how to apply, reasons for rejected applications and an applicants’ rights to appeal. The Senate president also submitted a plan outlining how the next round of funding should be spent.
“We’re trying to start over again because we got a second round. In the first round, only 4 percent got to people for relief. This time around, we can’t sit back,” Sweeney said.
“It’s a disgrace. We don’t know how the money we had coming to New Jersey was spent. We don’t know where the first $1.8 billion went. We have another $1.4 coming. Out of that, too many unanswered questions,” said Assemblywoman Linda Stender.
One of those unanswered questions — why did the administration quietly fire HGI, the contractor charged with distributing Sandy aid?
“We have all this money wasted by a company that didn’t address people’s needs. It is being given money to buy out and the administration doesn’t say straight up that they fired these folks because they did the job wrong and we are not going to pay them,” said housing advocate Arnold Cohen.
Arnold Cohen is among 70 housing and community advocates who sent a letter to Gov. Chris Christie, calling on his administration to improve its draft spending plan.
“It can be done better, cheaper, we could have people in their homes, if only we work with local groups,” Cohen said.
Sweeney agrees non-profits can do a better job. His plan calls for utilizing community resource centers to help disburse aid and act as resource guides for storm victims.