Finish the Job!

Two years later, too many of us still struggle with the impact of Superstorm Sandy and we still have questions about how storm recovery money is spent. It’s high time to stand together and get families home.

Tell Governor Christie it’s time to “Finish the Job” and get our families home!

  1. We can’t finish the job when we don’t have the money to do it, are sitting on a waitlist, or have been falsely rejected or are stuck in appeals. Get RREM grant money out the door now to families so that every eligible applicant – those in the program, on the waitlist and who have been falsely rejected – have half of their money within six months and the rest out by October 29th 2015 at the latest.
  2. We need a “roadmap through RREM.” The roadmap must list all documentation we need to provide and steps we need to take so that we can complete them and be cleared to move forward. We can’t finish the job when requirements keep changing or its not clear what it takes to move forward.
  3. We still need help because the job isn’t finished. As the SHRAP program ends, homeowners and tenants who are not home continue to need temporary assistance to pay rent, and taxes, and a mortgage, and sometimes storage. We need new funding to help us while we’re finishing the job.

The Rehabilitation, Reconstruction, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) program is meant to help families raise, rebuild, and get home. But the program isn’t working for thousands of families and major questions remain about how Sandy recovery money is used. Of the 1.1 billion dollars in the program, only 219 million is actually out the door to families who need help.

Tom’s Story

Greetings from Sea Bright:

On October 29, 2012, Superstorm Sandy upended my elderly parents’ lives; about 8 feet of filthy flood waters from the Shrewsbury River and Atlantic Ocean engulfed their home, and they have been displaced since then – with no end in sight.

My parents’ travail is not unique. They applied for the RREM grant the day the grant program opened on-line, May 25, 2012. It became a very onerous and burdensome and frustrating process – very quickly.

These two eighty year old people were forced to travel about 15 miles to the RREM Housing Recovery Center in the hinterlands of Freehold Township far from the sea. A trip that had to be repeated at least 10 times, a total of 300 miles, to resubmit lost documents and get the run-around from poorly trained HGI temp workers who promised to call back, which they seldom did, and they seldom provided any useful information.

My parents’ RREM application was lost for a long time. And they eventually found out through many, many calls to Commissioner Richard Constables’ office at the Dept. of Community Affairs in Trenton that they were on the waitlist. They found that out in November 2013. They filed two appeals, which were never responded to. After many more calls and trips to the DCA’s public meetings, they were informed that they were between 4000 and 4500 on the wait list, but were given no explanation as to why. After many more letters and calls, they were told that they were so low on the list because they had not provided a substantial damage letter, which would have showed that their home sustained more than 50% damage.

When they responded that they had the letter but the RREM program wouldn’t accept it, they were told that rules are rules by the DCA: they had been too late, and it didn’t matter that the RREM program was at fault. It didn’t matter that they had not been told by HGI’s temp workers that they needed the letter until after the application period ran. All the doors were closed now, they were told. It took help from our Congressman Pallone to get the DCA’s RREM program to accept the substantial damage letter in April 2014. After which their RREM rank came down quite a bit, between 2000 to 2500.

Months passed and my parents were told that they would be given a grant. They had a grant closing on 9/3/14, but they are still waiting for the total funds, and they have no idea when – or if they will get it. The RREM grant housing advisor told them to use their flood insurance money to begin raising the house (about $60,000). That’s almost gone. The house is on cribbing about 15 feet in the air, while hurricane season is at its peak for the Jersey Shore. There’s not enough money to finish the foundation without the grant money, and my parents do not know when that RREM funding they been promised will appear. If ever.

Their story is familiar to many. They have some hope. But we do not believe the grant process has been fair at all. But our hope is running out.

Wishing you all the best,
Thomas and Joan Largey, and their son Thomas J. Largey
Sea Bright, NJ
October 2014

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