- Associated Press - Friday, June 13, 2014

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - A federal audit of New Jersey’s use of federal Superstorm Sandy funding says that a since-fired contractor mishandled applications for a program to repair and rebuild storm-damaged homes.

The audit made public by the state Friday says that a firm hired to handle applications to the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation, and Mitigation program “failed to adequately document applicant files and filed documents in the wrong location.”

The New Orleans-based company, Hammerman & Gainer International, was fired earlier this year. Company officials did not return a call Friday.

State Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable has previously said only that there were “performance issues” with the company and has declined to go into detail.

But residents have complained about repeatedly lost application materials, one of their main frustrations with the program, which has been the centerpiece of New Jersey’s federally funded recovery effort. The program was initially oversubscribed, but Gov. Chris Christie announced last month that the state will be able to pay for repairs for all 11,400 eligible homeowners who applied last year. The grants are up to $150,000.

The audit report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development gives the state mostly good marks for administering its recovery programs.

The report follows up on one issued earlier this year. It notes that New Jersey has made progress on addressing the six identified concerns.

The concerns include how the state required local government agencies to document public service losses after the storm and found New Jersey did not ask housing program applicants to state whether they had flood insurance.

The review praises the state’s business grant program.

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