The Christie administration on Friday announced the disbursement of $22.5 million in Essential Services Grants to three Sandy-affected municipal governments, including Atlantic City.
Atlantic City received about $7.5 million, which city Revenue and Finance Director Michael Stinson said already had been budgeted and spent in 2013 for the salaries of 156 police officers from January through July.
Stinson added that the funds could not have been used to avoid layoffs for the 51 city firefighters who received layoff notices this month. Their salaries are paid for by a federal Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant, the funds for which run out next month.
“The SAFER grant is a federal grant,” Stinson said. “And even though (the Essential Services Grant) is federal money, it comes through the state of New Jersey. You can’t mix and match. If we applied Essential Services to the Fire Department, we could never use SAFER for that.”
The $60 million Essential Services Grants program is included in the New Jersey Disaster Recovery Action Plan and is funded through Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds provided by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The grants are designed to fill the gap between local governments’ Sandy-generated revenue losses and financial assistance they’ve received from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Community Disaster Loan program, according to a statement from the Governor’s Office.
Toms River received $14.4 million in Essential Services funds to avoid layoffs of police officers, emergency dispatchers and public works employees, while Sea Bright, Monmouth County, received about $843,000 to avoid police layoffs and furloughs.
“We are pleased that Essential Services Grant funding is flowing into Toms River, Atlantic City and Sea Bright to aid their recovery efforts,” state Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable said in a statement. “Because these communities’ insurance payments and FEMA assistance weren’t enough to cover their significant needs, the Christie administration has stepped in to ensure they have the resources to continue providing essential services until they can return to full strength.”
Grant recipients include the Brigantine Board of Education, Little Egg Harbor Board of Education, Ocean County and the Pinelands Regional Board of Education. Those entities will begin to receive their Essential Services funds in the coming weeks, the Governor’s Office said.
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