2014-01-17 / Columnists

Official Point Of View

Looking For Sandy Funding
From State Senator James Sanders Jr.

For months, critical aid for desperate and hurting individuals of the Rockaways, were held hostage by bureaucratic meandering, un-empathetic procrastination and inefficient systems. Relief finally arrived in the form of federal and state funding, intending to right the wrongs, the hurricane placed upon the good people residing on the peninsula. Unfortunately, to date, funding that was acquired on behalf of the good people, according to all current information has not been fully drawn down.

Five hundred seventy-five million dollars was raised for Sandy relief and yet, as of the report dated, April 2013, 42 percent remains unused; 7 percent of which went to individuals in the form of direct grants, families, and businesses, for Sandy relief purposes.

The questions that remain are: Who, What, Where, Why and How?

Who should be held responsible for the fact that Sandy funding has not arrived to the neediest to serve the intended purpose?

What is the reason behind what appears to be bureaucratic stalling concerning Super Storm Sandy contributions?

Where are the remaining funds; and why have the funds not been fully distributed or instead redirected to other disasters?

How can we address this issue and prevent such an injustice from reoccurring?

According to the Attorney General’s report (July 2013), the top five foundation recipients of Sandy donations were The American Red Cross $299,300,000; Robin Hood Foundation $64,825,000; The Mayors Fund to Advance NYC $57,002,470; The Salvation Army $20,532,000; Empire State Relief Fund $14,500,761. This report describes the recipient organizations of the funding but it does not explain the reason that funding has an expiration date, nor does it provide an explanation as to whether or not the people knew that funding specifically designated for Sandy Disaster relief was being rerouted toward other disasters or if stakeholders knew that an expiration date existed concerning Sandy relief funding.

When searching for the answers to the biggest question-WHY, I located a possible explanation. According to the report, two reasons that contributions were not funneled down, were cited as time constraints for processing applications AND maintaining funds for long term recovery. Should bureaucrats be allowed to hide behind their internal administration or the policies of their administrations?

The events of October 29th, 2012 were unlike anything the people of the Rockaways have seen. The storm hit so many so hard and swiftly; no one could have been ready for this type of devastation. The impact to the residents of the Rockaways is only paralleled by their daily experiences, prior to the storm. The Rockaways are still dealing with issues of flooding, mold and damage to homes.

Certain organizations harnessed the good will and well intentions of groups to collect funds to aid those impacted by Hurricane Sandy. While some of those groups were very diligent in seeing the aid through to those most in need, for example the Robin Hood Foundation which disbursed 100 percent of the 73 million dollars for Sandy victims, other groups reportedly only spent 58 percent of the monies received-not all of that went to assist storm victims. Funding collected for the purposes of assisting with the reconstruction and aiding of the Rockaways should not be utilized for any other purpose.

More than six months passed after Sandy, before the good people of the Rockaways heard that contributions would begin circulating, to address relief efforts needed to rebuild. Approximately four months post Sandy, in various parts of the Rockaways, residents went without electricity and heat; fought with mold due to flooding, in addition to a host of other issues, all symptomatic of one of the worst disasters the Northeast coastline has witnessed. These people have suffered enough.

So when it is reported that nearly half of the contributions earmarked for Sandy relief have not been distributed, and furthermore acting as a placeholder for potential future disaster relief, it is with a heavy heart that I ask Why? We may not have the answers to all of these questions but we can certainly put forth efforts to ensure that these questions do not go unanswered going forward.

It is my pledge that I will work closely with the Attorney General’s office to ensure that legislation is in place, for the purpose of transparency to the stakeholders, furthermore safeguarding against any “expiration dates” ensuring that “specified” funding will go towards the intended use of said disaster relief, should any occur, in the Rockaways, or any area within my district or in this state.

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