Menendez, Booker, Pallone, HUD Sec. Castro Survey Progress; Hear from Residents on Sandy 2nd Anniversary

Menendez, Booker, Pallone, HUD Sec. Castro Survey Progress; Hear from Residents on Sandy 2nd Anniversary

UNION BEACH, NJ - U.S. Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker, as well as Congressman Frank Pallone (NJ-06), today welcomed U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro to New Jersey on the second anniversary of Superstorm Sandy to see firsthand the real work left to be done in the recovery process and hear from residents still waiting for assistance to return to their homes. They were joined by Sandy victims and recovery advocates.

"In the two years since Sandy, we have made important progress, but the work is far from over," said Sen. Menendez. "When it came to rebuilding roads, bridges and businesses, federal funds moved quickly to the State and made an impact. Yet, for too many New Jerseyans, the recovery is not only incomplete-it hasn't even begun."

"Two years ago, Superstorm Sandy slammed into New Jersey, flooded our cities and towns, and ravaged the Shore. So many people can still feel the effects," said Sen. Booker. "I am going to be relentless in my efforts to ensure New Jersey receives its cut of federal resources so that we can rebuild and rebuild smartly."

Sen. Menendez, who received a commitment from Sec. Castro to tour New Jersey's Sandy-affected areas during his recent confirmation hearing, led a tour of hard-hit Union Beach. Despite signs of new construction two years after the storm, much of this middle and working class community along Monmouth County's Bayshore remains littered with damaged properties, abandoned homes and empty lots where houses once stood.

"Across New Jersey we have neighborhoods that are turning the page on the past and building towards a stronger future," said HUD Secretary Julián Castro. "HUD is committed to being a partner with the State of New Jersey and its various communities to ensure that we continue to provide resources to those homeowners and businesses that were impacted and so that these communities can continue to make progress and persevere."

While HUD reports New Jersey's recovery has fared better than other Sandy-affected states, it acknowledges that much work still remains to be done and that it will continue to closely monitor the State's progress.

According to HUD, over 75% of environmental reviews have been completely for eligible homeowners who applied for assistance through the State's Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation ("RREM") program, but more than two-thirds of eligible applicants are still waiting for payment from the state and more than 80% haven't even begun construction.

The Secretary, Senators and Congressman heard directly from Sandy victims and recovery advocates during a roundtable discussion held in the uninhabitable home of a Union Beach resident. Maria McQuarrie, her husband and daughter are forced to live in a trailer on their front lawn while they continue to wait for their RREM check to complete work on their house, which was destroyed by Sandy. Like many storm victims, the McQuarries report they exhausted all available rental assistance and began receiving foreclosure notices when they were unable to pay their mortgage, property taxes and rent.

"Two years ago, Sandy ravaged New Jersey and we are still in the process of recovering," Rep. Pallone said. "I am encouraged by the progress we have made to date but I know much more remains to be done. I am pleased that HUD Secretary Julián Castro has come to Union Beach to see firsthand what we have accomplished and where additional work remains. I know we are both committed to ensuring all those affected by Superstorm Sandy are given the resources they need to fully recover and we won't stop fighting until we achieve a full recovery."

Sen. Menendez later travelled to Ortley Beach in Toms River to assess the progress along Ocean County's northern Barrier Island, which took the brunt of Sandy's force. He met with residents and walked a neighborhood still baring visible scars of destruction.