The one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy's Oct. 29 assault on the Jersey shore approaches, and discontent is growing about the pace of relief programs.
As of Sept. 30, not one dollar of the main $600 million New Jersey program for reconstruction grants had been disbursed. And homeowners are learning, painfully, that having a $250,000 flood-insurance policy does not necessarily mean you will get a payment of that amount.
Some of this, it must be said, is inevitable.
More than 12,000 applications have been made to the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation Program. The grants are being administered by a private company - Hammerman & Gainer Inc., which played a similar role in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. And in an effort to avoid some of the fraud that occurred after Katrina, New Jersey has insisted that payments be made directly to contractors.
That has slowed the process - but the government and its contractors cannot be blamed for being careful with this money.
Flood insurance payments are a separate problem. Most policy holders assumed that they would receive a payment equal to the amount of insurance they bought. But the small print apparently says otherwise. That's outrageous - but it's a problem with the National Flood Insurance Program that the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Congress will have to address for the future.
Of course, the explanations for the delays in the grant program and the low-balling of insurance payments mean little if you are one of the thousands of New Jersey residents still out of your home because of Sandy. And there are some areas where government officials can and should step in to expedite the process.
Richard Constable, the commissioner of the state Department of Community Affairs, has acknowledged the problems with the grant program and is reviewing the process each day with HGI. But testimony this week at the Legislature's third public hearing on recovery efforts made it clear that more needs to be done. Many pointed to problems communicating with HGI and getting answers to questions. Those kinds of problems should not be difficult to fix.
And New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has taken an innovative approach to address another problem. Some homeowners have found out that flood insurance policies do not reimburse them for cracked foundations and buckled walls resulting from ground movement during a flood.
That defies common sense. But rather than argue the point, Cuomo has said he will use part of New York's share of the Sandy relief funds "to fully compensate" homeowners who have damage resulting from earth movement caused by flooding. New Jersey should do the same.
The problems and the pain are real here. Yes, some of it is unavoidable. But patience is wearing thin. Gov. Chris Christie has built much of his national reputation on his vigorous response to Sandy. But as the months wear on, it is clearer than ever that true recovery requires more than press conferences and photo-ops.