New Jersey is re-opening the appeal process for those initially rejected from two major state-run programs, which assist Hurricane Sandy victims.
In Brigantine, home owners like Mary Lou Jefferson received a letter on Monday about Hurricane Sandy grant money they applied for months ago, but had previously been denied. Jefferson said, "I just got the letter saying I was denied and that I can appeal."
The letter told her she can appeal the state's determination that she was ineligible for Sandy grant money.
NJ Department of Community Affairs Commissioner, Richard E. Constable III, released a statement saying:
“We are reopening the appeals period for applicants initially deemed ineligible for either the reconstruction (RREM) program or Homeowner Resettlement grant. We want anyone who is eligible under the guidelines to have a full and fair opportunity to receive assistance. Therefore, applicants who were deemed ineligible and did not appeal that determination will shortly receive a letter that outlines the steps they can now take to file an appeal.”
The decision comes a few days after a report by an advocacy group found fault with the state’s initial rulings.
Fair Share Housing Center said in a report last week that nearly 80 percent of applicants who were declared ineligible but appealed were accepted into the program.
Kevin D. Walsh, Associate Director and Attorney with the Fair Share Housing Center, told NBC40, "I would say 3,000 to 4,000 people, in all likelihood, will have a shot at getting funding who previously didn't. All the people that were rejected, and appealed, showed an 80 error rate in the state's programs."
The state Department of Community Affairs, which oversees the Sandy aid process, attributed the rejections in part to “inaccurate damage assessment data” provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
FEMA released a statement to NBC40 saying:
“The RREM is a state-run program and eligibility is determined by the state of New Jersey. At the state's request, FEMA provided its individual assistance data, which is specific to eligibility for FEMA's programs focused on survivor needs in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. It was not intended to be a comprehensive damage assessment for long-term recovery work, and the State understood that when FEMA provided the requested data to them."
The extended deadline applies to one program that gives residents a $10,000 incentive to stay in their former county, and another that grants up to $150,000 to rebuild.
Some Brigantine residents think the extended appeal period will only complicate the lives of already frustrated Sandy victims.
The reopened appeals period will be open until March 31st, and applicants can find the appeals worksheet here.
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