A federal program that could help residents and business owners with post-Sandy repairs and the raising of buildings received little attention — until Gov. Chris Christie mentioned it at a recent press conference.
The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development allocated $5.4 billion in Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funding to five states, including New Jersey, on Feb. 6. The funds are the first round of such grants from the Sandy relief act passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama in January.
New Jersey will receive more than $1.8 billion in funds, according to HUD, which are intended for housing and infrastructure restoration as well as “economic revitalization in disaster-impacted areas” — which Christie, in a speech in Lavallette, Ocean County, on Tuesday, said would include offsetting the cost of home and business owners to raise their buildings to meet proposed FEMA flood zone requirements.
The funds are meant to meet recovery needs “that are not otherwise covered by insurance, FEMA, SBA, or other sources,” HUD stated, adding that the department expects the first round of allocations “to focus largely on housing and small business needs.”
Lisa Ryancq, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Community Affairs, said that they were still putting together an action plan to be submitted to HUD on how the funds would be allocated.
Many homes and business properties that have federally backed mortgages would be required to meet new elevation standards proposed in new FEMA flood zone maps or else face higher flood insurance rates. Christie issued an order last month standardizing the new maps, but only for homes and businesses that received at least 50 percent damage.
Ventnor Mayor Mike Bagnell, meanwhile, was cautious about the funding.
“Nothing comes from Washington and Trenton that doesn’t have a bungee cord attached,” Bagnell said. “I’d have to know more before I’m dancing in the streets.”
Money would probably be allocated to the worst-hit areas and cities first, he said, “So whatever’s left is where we’d have to draw from.”
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