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Important Update to FSHC’s work to bring transparency to New Jersey’s Sandy recovery programs

Posted by Laura Denker on October 18th 2013

Nearly three months ago Fair Share Housing Center filed requests with the State of New Jersey under the State Open Public Records Act seeking information about the criteria for distributing Sandy recovery grants and whether those grants were being distributed on a fair basis to people of different income levels, races, ethnicities, and locations in the State. The State delayed producing any records in response to our requests for weeks after the date that it was legally required to respond.

In September, we sued the State of New Jersey for violations of the Open Public Records Act for refusing to produce this information. We have now had two initial conferences before the New Jersey Superior Court, Law Division in the litigation, which remains pending.

The State has recently given us some documents in response to the litigation, though they still have not provided many of the most important documents. From this limited picture, we are still not able to answer the most basic questions about the process used to distribute grants and the fairness of the program. We expect to get further documents in the next two weeks and hope that we will have more answers once we receive these documents.

Even though what we have gotten to date is far from complete, we know that many people have been waiting for months for the most basic information and we have been contacted by many, many impacted residents who have received conflicting information on their grant status. While we still believe that it should be the State of New Jersey providing this information directly to applicants on their web site, and not a third party that has only gotten this information through litigation, in the interests of transparency we are today making available to people impacted by Sandy the key documents we have received so far on the Resettlement and RREM programs. To review this information, please click here.

The information we are providing today are databases, by applicant ID number, with personal information redacted, of applicants that the State claims received approvals for the Resettlement grant, and were wait listed for the Resettlement and/or RREM grant. We have not received these data on anyone who has received approvals or tentative approvals from the RREM program, anyone rejected from either program, or anyone who has applied for either program but not been formally given an answer. We do not understand why this information has not been provided given that it was part of our public records request, and we have asked the State to produce this information no later than next Tuesday.

Our analysis of these data tables has shown that the material may be incomplete or inaccurate. These documents were sent to us by the State and we cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information listed. We have made minor formatting adjustments to the tables to further protect privacy and to allow a more accessible document.

Once reviewing this information with your personal application ID, if you believe the information is not accurate, or have questions, please share your concerns in our Still Stuck with the Storm online forms http://fairsharehousing.org/sandy and immediately contact your Legislator and explain your concerns.

We will respond to all information shared with us through the Still Stuck with the Storm forms as soon as we can. As those forms note, we are not able to provide direct legal representation to individuals due to limited resources. If you need legal representation, you should consult an attorney by calling your local bar association, or visit http://www.vljnj.org/.