Wednesday, December 10, 2014

U.S. audit points to problems with Sandy contractor

TRENTON - A federal audit of New Jersey's use of federal Hurricane Sandy funding says that a since-fired contractor mishandled applications for a program to repair and rebuild storm-damaged houses.

The audit made public by the state Friday says that a firm hired to handle applications to the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation, and Mitigation program "failed to adequately document applicant files and filed documents in the wrong location."

The New Orleans-based company, Hammerman & Gainer International, was fired this year. Company officials did not return a phone call Friday.

State Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable has previously said only that there were "performance issues" with the company and has declined to go into detail.

But residents have complained about repeatedly lost application materials, one of their main frustrations with the program, which has been the centerpiece of New Jersey's federally funded recovery effort. The program was initially oversubscribed, but Gov. Christie announced last month that the state would be able to pay for repairs for all 11,400 eligible homeowners who applied last year. The grants are of up to $150,000.

The audit report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development gives the state mostly good marks for administering its recovery programs.

It follows up on one issued earlier this year. It notes that New Jersey has made progress on addressing the six identified concerns.

The concerns include how the state required local government agencies to document public service losses after the storm and found New Jersey did not ask housing program applicants to state whether they had flood insurance.

The review praises the state's business grant program.

Associated Press
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