By Cleve Bryan
BRIGANTINE, NJ (CBS) – Firefighter Mike Lange has binders of paperwork meticulously tracking his efforts to get Sandy relief funds to lift his house in Brigantine above new flood standards.
What he doesn’t have is the money.
“This is the application I submitted originally, showing all the damages and details,” he says. “Fifteen months I’ve been living like this, as well as many people here in Brigantine.”
Lange applied for a grant through the state and has been on the waiting list since last summer.
“[It’s] extremely chaotic, every day is a different response – it comes from different people. And it seems like everything is rhetorical; you have to go through it again and again and again…” he adds.
According to a watchdog group in Cherry Hill, not only is the state’s Sandy relief process slow, it’s riddled with mistakes. Through open records requests, the group has discovered that almost 80% of the people who were rejected for grants won their appeals.
“There are thousands of people who were denied funding who, by the state’s own admission, should not have been. They’re now at the back of the waiting list, and they may never get funding because of the state’s mistakes,” explains Kevin Walsh, of the Fair Share Housing Center.
Now, the state has almost a billion-and-a-half dollars of new Sandy money to distribute.
State lawmakers like Jim Whelan say the process needs to be fixed, and everyone who was rejected should be allowed to apply again.
“You have this bureaucratic nightmare that people had to deal with; let’s open it up and get people the help that they need,” Whelan urges.
The Governor’s Office says there will be a series of public hearings prior to the next round of Sandy relief money being distributed.
For more information, visit: www.state.nj.us/dca/news/news/2014/approved/20140206.html