The Obama Administration is considering holding a contest for areas impacted by disasters other than Superstorm Sandy. The “winners” would get between $1 billion and $2 billion of the remaining $3.6 billion is Sandy relief dollars being doled out by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), according to a story first reported by the Wall Street Journal
The Record reports that New Jersey Congressmen Bill Pascrell Jr., D-Paterson; Albio Sires, D-West New York; and Frank Pallone, D-Long Branch, and Sen. Bob Menendez are urging HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan not to divert federal aid to projects in other parts of the country. Members of the New York Congressional Delegation are making similar pleas.
Bookerism of the Day
Where’s Senator Cory Booker? He’s proselytizing on twitter.
Sires told The Record that the entire New Jersey delegation could join together in opposition to a nationwide contest for the money. That would be great! Sires should lead the Democrats in the delegation in ending the partisanship that has been dominating the discourse over Sandy recovery and sign the letter to Donovan and Michael Boots, the Acting Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality that Congressman Chris Smith invited him, and all members of the delegation to sign requesting a meeting to hash out the multitude of issues New Jersey residents are having with the HUD relief process.
Keansburg Deputy Mayor Jimmy Cocuzza, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Congressman Frank Pallone at Sweeney’s Town Hall Meeting in Keansburg, March 20, 2014
Senate President Steve Sweeney and Congressman Frank Pallone tried to feign non-partisanship yesterday at Sweeney’s Town Hall Meeting in Keansburg, the most recent leg on Sweeney’s Sandy Bill of Rights tour. “This is not about politics, or party,” Sweeney said as Pallone nodded “it’s about taking care of the people who need help and getting them the information they need.”
Sweeney’s bill seems to make perfect sense. It requires plain language explanations of disaster assistance programs and gives applicants the right to know where they are in the process, where they are on waiting lists, and how to appeal. The bill was cleared with amendments by the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee, 4-0 with one abstention, Sen. Jennifer Beck, on Monday.
Tina Napalo lived in a bungalow-style house on Fourth Street in Union Beach for more than 20 years. “I didn’t have everything,” said the 40-year-old mother of four, but, “it took me a long time to get what I had.” Then Hurricane Sandy hit.…
Responding to partisan and media charges by those hoping to expand the Bridgegate controversy that has besieged the Christie Administration into misuse of Sandy funds, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes last night that he is confident that the Obama Administration is carefully monitoring federal funds targeted for homeowners. Donovan said that federal money for Sandy victims is being distributed faster than relief for any previous natural disaster.
Congressmen Frank Pallone and Bill Pascrell wrote to Donovan yesterday asking that HUD investigate New Jersey’s dealings with a terminated contractor that had been assigned the administration of Community Block Development Grants and that HUD appoint a federal official to the usage of those funds in New Jersey.
Pallone’s spokesperson, Ray Zaccaro, did not respond to a request for comment about Donovan’s remarks. We are awaiting a call back from Thomas Piepnykosky, Pascrell’s spokesperson.
UPDATE: Ian O’Connor of the HUD’s Inspector General’s Office responded to our inquiry regarding the audit into the #Stronger Than The Storm ad campaign.
“Is this audit anything other than what would occur in the normal course of events regarding any HUD grant?
Is there a separate investigation into the Stronger Than The Storm in ad campaign?”
“We received a request from Congress and are performing an audit to address those concerns.”
MMM followed up asking:
“Is there anything out of the ordinary about this audit?
Are all Congressional requests accepted?”
“We have no further statements.”
So here is what we know. Congressman Frank Pallone asked the Department of Housing and Urban Development to look into the Stronger than the Strom ad campaign.
HUD said, OK.
When the federal government grants money, for anything, they later follow up with an audit to be sure the money was spent as intended.
Congressman Frank Pallone thought it would be clever to inform the media that the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s audit into funds granted for Sandy Relief was an investigation into Governor Chris Christie and his appearance in last summer’s #Stronger Than The Storm ad campaign.
MMM asked Ray Zaccaro, Pallone’s press contact in Washington for documentation that the audit is anything other than the normal course of business. Zaccaro said there was no documentation, just a phone call from someone at HUD responding to Pallone’s August letter on the matter saying, “yeah, we’ll look into it.” Zaccaro said that HUD wouldn’t discuss investigations, “except with us, Members of Congress.”
MMM reached out to Brian Sullivan in HUD’s press office for confirmation of a separate investigation. Sullivan referred us to Marta Metelko in the HUD Inspector General’s office. We received an auto reply from Ms. Metelko referring us to Mr. Ian O’Connor. We’ve yet to hear back from O’Connor.
Only those residents and business who have registered with FEMA by 11:59pm on May 1 will be eligible for CDB grants
Gov Chris Christie and HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan announce $1.83 billion in federal grant money for New Jersey’s recovery from Superstorm Sandy at Bahrs Landing, Highlands, 4/29/13. photo by Art Gallagher
U.S . Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan joined Governor Chris Christie at Bahrs Landing in Highlands this morning to announce that the Obama Administration has approved New Jersey’s application for $1.83 billion in grant funds to assist businesses and homeowners from the 9 counties catastrophically impacted by Superstorm Sandy in rebuilding to a “new normal.”
“Today we take another important step toward recovery and healing for hard-hit communities in New Jersey,” said Donovan. “HUD has worked closely with Governor Christie, Senators Menendez and Lautenberg, and the New Jersey Congressional Delegation to help design effective programs that will help small businesses reopen, get families back in their homes make communities more resilient as quickly as possible. We have also imposed additional internal controls and accountability measures and we will be working with the Inspector General to ensure that all funds are used as intended – to help families, small businesses and communities get back on their feet and rebuild.”
“Today’s news sends a very powerful message that New Jersey is moving forward and that the Jersey Shore will be open for business this summer,” said Governor Chris Christie. “These funds will provide critical resources to our Sandy-impacted homeowners and businesses to reconstruct, rehabilitate and continue down the road of recovery. While there is much work ahead of us, we have come a long way during these last six months, and I want to thank Secretary Donovan and his team for their tireless efforts as we all work together to rebuild our great state.”
Christie and Donovan said that the CDB grants will assist homeowners and businesses who have received all that is available from FEMA and their insurance companies, yet have fallen short in the funds needed to rebuild. Donovan emphasized that funds are available in the program for renters and the rebuilding of rental housing.
Only those residents and business who have registered with FEMA by 11:59 on May 1 will be eligible for CDB grants, Christie said.