The Christie Administration today submitted the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Disaster Recovery Action Plan to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for review and approval. The Action Plan outlines how the State will utilize $1,829,520,000 in federal funding to help homeowners, renters, businesses and communities impacted by Superstorm Sandy.
As part of the grant process, members of the public had an opportunity to comment on the Action Plan during a seven-day period that closed March 19. The Plan submitted to HUD includes the public comments that were submitted along with the State's responses. The comments informed the final Action Plan that was sent to the federal government, including suggestions and revisions that assisted the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) in establishing a process to better identify public housing needs, to better explain how citizen participation helped develop the Action Plan, and to provide clarity on what "first-come, first-served" means in the context of applicable programs.
"The programs designed as part of the Action Plan will help address the unmet needs of Sandy-impacted homeowners, renters, and business owners as they rebuild their lives and recover from their losses," said Governor Christie. "I thank HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan for his assurance of a quick review so that we can begin getting relief out to the many people who were devastated by Superstorm Sandy."
Pursuant to HUD guidelines, the Action Plan focuses predominantly on the nine counties most affected by the storm (Atlantic, Bergen, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, and Union) and on assisting low-to-moderate-income families. Following HUD approval, more than 26,000 homeowners, more than 5,000 renters and more than 10,000 businesses will be helped, as well as dozens of local governmental units.
HUD has up to 45 days to approve the Action Plan, but has stated that it intends to work closely with New Jersey to conduct an expedited review process. Therefore, the State anticipates that the Action Plan should be approved in April.
"While HUD is reviewing the Action Plan, we will move diligently to finalize all program designs and put in place the framework needed to implement the programs in order to enable funds to reach residents and businesses as quickly as possible," said Richard E. Constable, III, Commissioner of the NJ Department of Community Affairs, which will administer the distribution of CDBG Disaster Recovery funds for New Jersey. "We recognize people and communities are hurting and we are working literally night and day to get aid out the door."
Assisting homeowners in the reconstruction, rehabilitation, and elevation of their homes and helping them prepare for future storms is a top priority of the Christie Administration's rebuilding efforts and, if approved, $825 million will be allocated to these efforts with this first phase of funding. The Action Plan will also set aside $254.5 million to meet the needs of displaced renters whose primary residences were damaged by the storm. Through the Plan, the State will leverage CDBG Disaster Recovery funds to create approximately 5,000 affordable rental units for low-to-moderate-income families, including those with special needs.
Additionally, economic recovery is a focus of the Action Plan. To help New Jersey businesses, the State will set aside $500 million of the CDBG Disaster Recovery allocation for the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) to administer such activities as small business grants, community revitalization programs and a tourism marketing campaign.
"The EDA hopes to be able to get assistance to impacted businesses as quickly as possible to ensure they have the capital they need to resume, maintain or grow their operations," said EDA Chief Executive Officer Michele Brown. "We are working to develop programs and a marketing strategy to best meet the needs of our businesses and communities and ensure that the world knows New Jersey is open for business."
In general, CDBG Disaster Recovery funds are intended to support local rebuilding efforts after private insurance, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants and other available sources of funds have been applied. HUD also requires that at least 50% of the funding focus on low-to-moderate-income households.