Minorities were rejected at higher rates than whites from state-administered Sandy-relief programs, advocacy groups said Thursday, but officials in Gov. Chris Christie's administration insist the process has been fair.
The sample of applicants from minority groups is relatively small -- possibly skewing the comparisons that show Latinos were rejected at a higher percentage than whites from housing assistance and that blacks were rejected at a rate 2 1/2 times higher than whites.
But Fair Share Housing Center staff attorney Adam Gordon said the low samples highlight perhaps the key flaw in the state's Sandy-recovery effort -- a failure "to advertise the programs and reach out to affected communities, including those with lower incomes," he said.
Officials from the state Department of Community Affairs, which administers the recovery programs, said eligibility and qualification rules were approved by the federal government and that broad-based enrollment efforts were intensive.
DCA Commissioner Richard Constable said the funding decisions "are objectively based, and do not take race or ethnicity into account in any way whatsoever."
The assertion that the rejection rates show a pattern of unfairness "is an outrageously false implication that exposes a complete lack of credibility and integrity by Fair Share Housing Center." Constable said. "This organization's eagerness to distort and stoop to such a low speaks more to its transparent motives, which is to serve as an antagonist at any cost and at every turn in the Sandy-recovery effort."
Christie also had choice words for Fair Share Housing last week after the nonprofit group concluded, following a review of other government records, that the state had no clear guidelines in place for grant programs until most of the eligibility decisions already were made.
Christie called the organization a "hack group" and told reporters at a news conference: "Just so it's general notice to all of you, don't ask me any questions about Fair Share Housing."
In the resettlement program, there were a combined 1,700 Latino and black applicants, compared with 10 times that number of whites.
The state took extra steps to enroll storm victims, said Lisa Ryan, spokeswoman for the state Department of Community Affairs, by canvassing "low- and moderate-income neighborhoods with fliers and door hangers in such Sandy-impacted towns as Atlantic City, Little Egg Harbor, Union Beach and Keansburg during the two-month application period."
That outreach included advertisements "in newspapers and on radio stations, including minority and Spanish-language outlets, that would reach low- and moderate-income households, and we reached out to a diverse group of partner organizations," Ryan added.
But Frank Argote-Freyre, president of the Latino Action Network, accused the Christie administration of underfunding renters, which includes a large segment of Latinos, and said there were errors with website Spanish instructions on how to appeal rejections and other information. The state said it corrected the mistakes.
"I think Gov. Christie should explain what he intends to do to help those who were unfairly rejected or who missed deadlines due to the administration's neglect," Argote-Freyre said.
(c)2013 the Asbury Park Press (Neptune, N.J.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.
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Origina leadline: Groups: Sandy aid disbursal unfair
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