EDISON - Sen. Bob Menendez invited representatives from New Jersey to Washington Wednesday to discuss problems in the state's Sandy recovery programs, including the now infamous RREM grant program for homeowners.
"I confess I thought it was a good idea to give states the flexibility and discretion that seemed reasonable assuming we would all rise to the occasion," Menendez says. "And now frankly I question the wisdom of that assumption."
Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty says his constituents are frustrated by the recovery process. "500 days of struggling through bureaucratic rules and regulations," he says. "500 days of not knowing when, or even if they'll ever get back home again."
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"We had to sue the state of New Jersey for access to basic documents under our Freedom of Information law," says Adam Gordon, of the Fair Share Housing Center.
Gov. Chris Christie has told town hall audiences that a lengthy environmental review was required before homeowners could collect grant money, which slowed the process.
HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan says those now only take a couple of weeks and could be done first to get them out of the way. "There is no restriction at the federal level from them doing that," he says. "The only risk from that perspective is that you might end up paying for an environmental for a family that is later determined to be ineligible."
Donovan says HUD is investigating the program's now fired operator and claims of racial bias in grant distribution.
Menendez says he invited Christie administration officials to attend today's meeting, but says they declined.