Nearly a year after Hurricane Sandy caused $19 billion in damages and economic losses to New York City, $648 million in federal aid that has been allocated for the city for housing recovery has languished in bureaucracy. According to the Wall Street Journal, only a single person—a woman on Staten Island whose damaged house was purchased by the government this month—has received any of the funding.
"We're racing to get a dollar out the door in time by the one-year anniversary. That's absurd," Brad Gair, the city's director for housing recovery told the paper. "Who's going to stand for that?"
Gair blames the slow pace on a combination of stultifying bureaucracy that arose in federal protocol after Hurricane Katrina, and a system that is not conducive to urgency.
"It's very, very difficult to get this money. It's very hard to explain to people. It's very hard to keep their trust in a process like this," Gair said. "We've got to fix this system."
FEMA has given grants of up to $31,900 to families with damages homes, and Mayor Bloomberg's Rapid Repairs program will have spent $1.77 billion on clearing storm debris and rehabilitating houses. That money is expected to be reimbursed.
The $648 million is part of a $60 billion aid package Congress passed in January, and is supposed to help families who were forced to live in hotels or with friends and family while falling behind on rent or mortgage payments, as well as purchase lots with homes that can't be rebuilt. The federal official in charge of administering the funds to New Yorkers is HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, who is Mayor Bloomberg's former HPD Commissioner.
At a press conference in June, the mayor took time to praise the agents in the federal and state governments charged with Sandy recovery in New York, "especially HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, who have helped us slash red tape and get work done as quickly as possible."
"There's no question that while we've made progress there are still many things that we can do, both administratively and also, legislatively, to speed up the process of getting help to families," Donovan told a Senate subcommittee last month. "The money is beginning to flow."