Mundy Outlines Disastrous Program
Dear Editor: (This is just a portion of the testimony of Dan Mundy Sr. at the City Council hearing on the Build It Back program):
I will provide this commission feedback as a resident of Broad Channel, a trustee of the Broad Channel Civic Association, co-chair of the Jamaica Bay Task Force, vice president and environmental chair of Community Board 14.
A year and a half after the storm we still have residents awaiting help and I hope the unique perspective that is provided here will help this committee to better understand what has been transpiring to date and to make changes that will allow the needed aid to begin to flow. Here are just a few of the problems that residents have encountered and that have driven most to lose all hope that they will ever see any assistance from this program. The application process:
It has been an administrative disaster; it was rolled out too soon with staff that was untrained which resulted in every single applicant experiencing lost documents. Uninformed staff:
They failed to understand the program and often hold up applications for the wrong reasons. SBA loan impact:
Residents were told that if you had applied for an SBA loan and had not taken it, because you could not afford it or because you decided not to take it, that amount would still be applied against any funds you might be able to receive. This was particularly frustrating in light of the fact that FEMA reps had told us at every turn that every resident should apply for an SBA loan even if they did not think they could afford it as it opened up additional opportunities for grants in the future. An obvious lie that was intent on pushing as many storm victims as possible into applying for a loan that they would never receive and one that would ultimately preclude them from receiving federal aid. When this first came to light in April of 2013 we brought this issue to our federal officials and gained the support of both Senator Schumer and Congressman Meeks and after discussions with Secretary Donovan an agreement was announced that this ridiculous provision would not be applied and that if you had applied for the SBA loan and had not taken it then it would have no bearing on your ability to qualify for aid under Build It Back. However once the application process started this provision was once again applied to applicants. When we protested we were told that applicants could request the assistance of a not for profit organization that may be able to make the case, on a case by case basis, that they could not afford the loan. Structural assessment issue:
The structural assessment of a home has significant consequences with a determination indicating a home needs only repairs or a total rebuild having a result of changing an applicant's status from priority one to priority two. This change could mean that an applicant would have to wait a year or more to see any type of assistance. We found the structural assessments in some cases were inaccurate and in all cases were not being conducted by architects or structural engineers and the reports were not reflecting the degree of damage present. Failure to release funds:
Even in cases of completed applications The city is refusing to release checks to those who have completed the process and the comparison to the state release of funds shows that the city is lagging way behind the state which has thousands of homeowners who have been approved and compensated.
In summary, this program, this city, has let these devastated families down and has failed to provide the relief that has been sent down by the federal government in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. We are receiving phone calls and emails on a daily basis of families that are in danger of losing their properties, because they are now in possession of empty lots, to foreclosures as they struggle to pay their mortgages, taxes and insurances while also paying rent in an interim apartment while they await for this city to release the funds they are in possession of. It is hard to imagine what could be a higher priority for this administration then helping these families that have lost everything.
DAN MUNDY SR.