A bi-partisan bill to help Hurricane Sandy families defrauded by building contractors passed the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on Monday.
Sponsored by state Sen. Chris Brown, R-Atlantic, S-3191 provides an alternate method for victims of fraud to apply for relief so they can be made whole.
The state now requires Sandy victims to have a “charging document,” indicating the contractor has been charged with a crime involving fraud or theft by deception, in order to qualify for a refund through the state. The N.J. Organizing Project, an advocacy group for Sandy victims, has said such documents are difficult to obtain.
Under Brown’s bill, if one of a number of law enforcement agencies has reasonable cause to believe a contractor violated the consumer fraud act, the state Department of Community Affairs would be authorized to distribute fraud-response funding, without a charging document.
“Whether the delay for working families to return to their homes is caused by fraud, deception, or just plain incompetence, these families shouldn’t suffer any longer,” Brown said. “They were awarded a grant to rebuild their homes that was essentially stolen from them by unscrupulous contractors, and yet the bureaucracy makes it difficult for families to find relief.”
Contractor fraud “is taking a further toll on families, wasting limited public dollars, and draining personal savings,” Brown said. “It’s well past the time to bring closure for the hundreds of families who just want to move back into their homes and on with their lives.”
The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.