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Pascrell Urges HUD to Require Reopening of RREM Program

Cites HUD report highlighting state's mismanagement of largest federally funded Sandy homeowner assistance program
PATERSON - Today, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09) urged U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan to require the State of New Jersey to reopen the Homeowner Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program following HUD's release of a report highlighting the State's mismanagement of the federally funded housing program. Rep. Pascrell first wrote to Governor Christie in October urging the State to reopen the RREM program, and renewed that call in March in his comments to the Governor on a proposed amendment to New Jersey Disaster Recovery Action Plan.


"After the application period for the RREM program closed, I began to hear from constituents who had been shut out of the process due to a lack of outreach from the State and its primary contractor, Hammerman and Gainer Incorporated (HGI)," Pascrell wrote to Secretary Donovan. "These problems have been widely reported in the media and attested to through the State’s firing of HGI due to its mismanagement of the RREM program. For nearly 7 months, I have argued that the RREM application process must be reopened to allow access to federal aid for homeowners with ongoing unmet needs."

Last week, HUD issued their Management Review Report focusing on the RREM Program, which highlighted the ongoing mismanagement in the State’s implementation of its largest federally funded homeowner assistance program. In the report, HUD recommended the State reopen the application process for the RREM program that still has more than 7,000 New Jersey homeowners waitlisted.

The full text of the letter follows:

May 6, 2014

The Honorable Shaun Donovan, Secretary
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
451 7th Street SW
Washington, DC 20410

Dear Secretary Donovan:

I write today regarding your Department’s recently issued Management Review Report focusing on the State of New Jersey’s Homeowner Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program, which highlighted the ongoing mismanagement in the State’s implementation of its largest federally funded homeowner assistance program. As a result of this report’s findings, I respectfully request that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) require that the State reopen the RREM application process as a condition for approval of the State’s Action Plan for the second tranche of Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funding.

After the application period for the RREM program closed, I began to hear from constituents who had been shut out of the process due to a lack of outreach from the State and its primary contractor, Hammerman and Gainer Incorporated (HGI). These problems have been widely reported in the media and attested to through the State’s firing of HGI due to its mismanagement of the RREM program. For nearly 7 months, I have argued that the RREM application process must be reopened to allow access to federal aid for homeowners with ongoing unmet needs.

HUD’s review confirms that outreach on the RREM program to potentially eligible homeowners was limited in impacted counties outside of the Shore region. The report states that homeowners with remaining unmet needs but who did not have the opportunity to apply for RREM will not be addressed under the State’s action plan. As the Representative of one of the most heavily impacted regions in Northern New Jersey, I find this completely unacceptable. We must ensure that Sandy aid is distributed equitably to New Jersey homeowners in need.

HUD’s report goes on to suggest that “the State may consider re-opening the RREM application process, with targeted outreach to the under-subscribed areas and populations.” I agree wholeheartedly with this assessment. This monitoring report reinforces the evidence we have seen over the past several months of mismanagement in the State’s federally-funded Sandy recovery programs. I am glad that HUD has confirmed the existence of these issues and recommended appropriate corrective action.

With the State of New Jersey’s Action Plan for the second tranche of CDBG-DR funding currently undergoing HUD review, HUD has the ability to address this issue. I urge you to require the State of New Jersey to amend its Action Plan to allow for the reopening of the RREM application period program as a condition for approving its application for the second round of CDBG-DR funding. Homeowners in my district and across the State should not denied the federal aid they are entitled to because of the State’s mismanagement. Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

Bill Pascrell, Jr.
Member of Congress

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