Wednesday, November 13, 2013

SANDY | NJ Payout–Slow and Opaque

Governor of NJ comforts Sandy victim.
During my half-year stint as Chief Economist at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice in Newark, I wrote a report tracking the payout of the public and private funds set aside for victims of Sandy.

Sandy caused damage equal to 5.8 percent of the NJ economy (gross product), more than twice its 2.8 percent share of the New York economy.

The report showed, overall, that the hardest-hit were the poor and near-poor, who were under-insured and under-prepared for the storm. If they had assets, they lost a major part of them. If they did not have assets, they died or suffered trying to stay alive.

In my report I compared New Jersey's response to that of New York. Most of the comparisons were not favorable to New Jersey, which was slower to pay out money to victims and was less transparent about how donations and Federal aid was being spent. In June I moved on to serve as chief economist to the Warrior Family Foundation.

This morning I read in The New York Times a story by Kate Zernike that reports: "Most U.S. Hurricane Aid Still Undistributed in New Jersey" (p. 28):
[Last month New Jersey] had distributed only about a quarter of the $1.2 billion that the federal government had awarded to help New Jersey homeowners and renters recover from the storm. [In addition, there were] complaints about heavy bureaucracy and a lack of transparency.
State officials responded that] the federal housing department  required several layers of additional approval... to prevent the kind of fraud that followed Hurricane Katrina.