Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Promise Made to Sandy Victims

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Promise Made to Sandy Victims

Article excerpt

Superstorm Sandy victims on a waiting list for a major housing program will get grants if they qualify, members of New Jersey's House delegation said they were promised Thursday by a top Obama administration official.

But the official, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, would not rule out the possibility that other disaster- stricken states could get as much as $1 billion of the $52 billion approved primarily for Sandy recovery last year. New Jersey House members, who battled to get the aid package through a House Republican majority that initially blocked it, said they expressed strong opposition to Donovan's position in a private meeting in the Capitol.

Rep. Chris Smith, a Republican from Mercer County who arranged the meeting and represents several hard-hit areas along the Shore, said Donovan gave the congressmen a "bedrock commitment that all unmet housing needs will be met."

Smith said Donovan did not define what he meant, but Smith specifically asked about the 6,300 applicants on a waiting list for the federally financed, state-administered Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation program, which has been widely criticized for delays in awarding grants of up to $150,000.

"I said that would be the 6,300 at least?" Smith said. "And he said, 'Well, if they qualify, that's true.' "

Donovan left without talking to reporters. His spokesman later issued a statement that the agency was "committed to fairly and equitably allocating disaster relief funds and will continue working with state and local officials to address the remaining unmet needs of those affected by natural disasters."

"At this time, no decisions have been made about the allocation of remaining funds," spokesman Patrick Rodenbush said.

Officials in Governor Christie's administration have said they were concerned that some applicants would not receive money because of reports the Obama administration was considering holding a $1 billion competition for projects to increase resiliency against future storms. The Sandy law did include language making any area that had a federally declared disaster from 2011 through 2013 eligible for the money. …

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