STATE – New Jersey erroneously rejected hundreds of applicants for Hurricane Sandy recovery aid, according to data released this week by the Fair Share Housing Center.
The data, obtained by the Cherry Hill-based group through the Open Public Records Act, show that a contractor hired (and later fired) by the Christie Administration rejected 6,417 applicants for two aid programs. Of those, 2,424 people appealed and 1,878 were actually found to eligible, with 42 cases still to be decided.
“The Christie Administration’s widespread rejection of large numbers of families actually eligible for Sandy aid shows that the Sandy recovery process has been flawed from start to finish,” Fair Share Housing Center Staff Attorney Adam Gordon said. “Who knows how many thousands more have been denied aid because the Christie Administration botched the process.”
The group called for a full explanation of why the contractor was fired, as well as a full and complete audit of the $600 million Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation program and the $180 million Resettlement program.
A state Department of Community Affairs spokesperson explained that many of the initial denials were the result of inaccurate damage assessments from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“Noting the high number of ineligibility determinations, we investigated and learned FEMA provided the state with inaccurate damage assessment data,” said Lisa Ryan. “As a result, we obtained HUD approval to allow applicants to demonstrate damage through third-party sources other than FEMA data.”
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