When natural disaster hits, in an ideal world there wouldn’t be inequities when it comes to relief aid. But that just isn’t the case, as data from Hurricane Sandy seems to illustrate.
Latino and African-American residents applying for two major Sandy relief programs may have been unfairly turned away. According to local housing rights organization Fair Share Housing Center (FSHC), it has obtained data from the Christie Administration proving just this. The data shows that black and Latino applicants were denied by the state at higher rates than their Caucasian counterparts.
The FSHC says 35 percent of African-American applicants and 18 percent of Latino applicants applying to the Homeowner Reconstruction, Rehabilitation Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) program were rejected by the state, reports NBC Philadelphia. But only 13 percent of Caucasian applicants were denied from the same program.
Also, FSHC reports that 38 percent of African Americans and 20 percent of Latinos who applied to the Resettlement Grant Program had their applications denied while just 14 percent of Caucasians were rejected from the same program.
Now the Latino Action Network (LAN) and NAACP want an explanation from the Christie Administration on how he will rectify the situation. LAN president Frank Argote-Freyre and members of the New Jersey chapter of the NAACP examined the data along with FSHC and took note of inequities in both the amount of Latino and African Americans that applied for the programs, and the number of Latino and African-American residents who were approved to receive relief funds.
“Given the misinformation presented to the Spanish-reading community by the Governor’s relief website, I think Governor 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 stated in a press release. “We hope that this data, supplied by the Christie Administration itself, will help to shed light on why these programs are not working.”
LAN is currently suing the Christie Administration alleging that info provided on the English version of New Jersey’s Sandy recovery website was omitted from the Spanish version of the site.
“LAN says, due to the state’s failure to properly advertise the programs—specifically to lower income communities—that there were only 849 Latino applicants and 878 African American applicants to the Resettlement Program, compared to nearly 18,000 Caucasian applicants,” reports NBC. And only 432 Latinos and 485 African Americans applied to the RREM Program, versus more than 7,000 Caucasian applicants.
Firing back, New Jersey Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Richard E. Constable, III, Esq. claims FSHC manipulated the data, and called the accusations patently false.
He said, “To be absolutely clear, eligibility and qualification for the housing recovery programs were approved by the Obama Administration, are objectively based, and do not take race or ethnicity into account in any way whatsoever.”
Constable says 44 percent or nearly half of the federal Sandy relief funding has “been obligated or is out the door to people in need” and that nearly three-quarters of those funds were distributed to low- or middle-income renters and homeowners.