Major industry tracking companies rank the Garden State first in the nation for foreclosures in 2014, with 50,000 new filings expected by year's end -- all the more reason, according to New Jersey Citizen Action, that the Christie administration and the state legislature should take comprehensive policy action to address the issue.

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Despite more than $1 billion in federal aid and mortgage servicer settlement money spent in New Jersey since this crisis began, foreclosures filed in the state for February 2014 were up 108 percent over the same month last year.

"Since the crisis, most of the funding to help homeowners facing foreclosures came through federal means," said Beverly Brown Ruggia, community reinvestment organizer for NJCA. "Our concern is, now that the federal money is gone, there doesn't seem to be any specific allocation for helping homeowners who are facing foreclosure."

In a press release Monday, NJCA executive director Phyllis Salowe-Kaye said it is not known exactly how many people benefited from federal aid while it was still available.

"It is, however, perfectly clear that with more than 4,600 foreclosures filed in each of the first two months of this year, the foreclosure nightmare has not gone away," Salowe-Kaye said. "The demand for assistance is as great as ever, but programs to help homeowners are either greatly diminished or gone."

Brown Ruggia said Christie's office has been entirely dependent on the federal government during the crisis.

"Governor Christie was slow to deliver the federal aid, and he vetoed bipartisan legislation meant to mitigate the fallout from foreclosures," Brown Ruggia said. "The legislature has a few proposals including the new Mortgage Assistance Pilot Program (MAPP) proposed in the bill A955, sponsored by Assemblyman (Troy) Singleton, and which NJCA supports. But we need to see much more policy action, especially with the Sandy victims added to the mix of homeowners in trouble. People are suffering."

Salowe-Kaye attended an Assembly Budget Committee meeting on Monday, looking for answers to the question of how the Christie administration handled the funds, and how it will address the crisis going forward.

"Ignoring the numbers or throwing up one's hands because the federal aid is gone won't make the problem go away," Salowe-Kaye said. "If the Christie administration will not take the lead on meaningful foreclosure policy, the legislature will have to do it. The people of New Jersey are counting on it."

A request for comment from the Christie administration went unanswered.

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