WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) applauded the State of New Jersey today for agreeing to revise its policy for Sandy-stricken homeowners seeking relief through its Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) program. After months of citing a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regulation which requires environmental reviews of properties applying for RREM as the cause for long delays in getting relief for homeowners, Richard Constable, commissioner of the state Department of Community Affairs, told the Asbury Park Press yesterday that environmental and historical reviews were finally beginning on thousands of properties for homeowners on the waiting list for grants and that have been moved up in the process to be done in conjunction with on-site inspections. Menendez has called repeatedly for the State to implement this common sense measure to speed the process.
"I'm pleased that Governor Christie has listened to my urging and reportedly agreed to reform the State's RREM program so homeowners don't have to wait for unnecessary delays before they can rebuild," said Sen. Menendez. "As I have said for several months now, by reversing the current policy and simply putting the environmental and historical reviews at the front end of the application process, thousands of homeowners currently out of their homes and waiting to rebuild, can at least start down the path to recovery. While it's unfortunate this fix wasn't implemented earlier in the process, it's still better late than never for the thousands of homeowners still waiting to start rebuilding."
In March, Menendez held a hearing with HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan who reiterated that the State was free to perform these checks whenever they wanted and encouraged the State to move them further up in the process in order to expedite recovery. According to the agency, the checks themselves take only two weeks in most instances and no more than six weeks in the most complicated cases. No work can be done during the reviews, but once they are complete, the homeowner can begin or resume their construction without jeopardizing their reimbursement through RREM.