Sunday, October 4, 2015

Christie unveils billion-dollar Sandy recovery plan

TRENTON - The first batch of congressionally-approved federal assistance for Sandy victims will directly help 20,000 homeowners, 5,000 renters and 10,000 business owners, according to a plan released by the Christie administration this afternoon.

Christie unveils billion-dollar Sandy recovery plan


For the full story in Wednesday's paper, click here.

TRENTON — The first batch of congressionally-approved federal assistance for Sandy victims will directly help 20,000 homeowners, 5,000 renters and 10,000 business owners, according to a plan released by the Christie administration this afternoon.

Half of the $1.83 billion (with a 'b') is directed to low and moderate income households, as per federal guidelines. But thanks to a waiver issued by the Obama administration, $25 million that would normally be earmarked for housing and businesses may be redirected to a tourism marketing campaign to let Americans know the Jersey Shore is still open.

The 80-page plan, which can be found here, promises the creation of thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity. The money comes from the $50 billion allocation that Congress made to affected states in January after Christie, a Republican, publicly chastised Republican congressional leaders who were holding up the appropriations.  

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The plan was devised at a cost of $9.5 million by private consultants from Massachusetts-based CDM Smith, a global firm that has long done construction and consulting work for New Jersey governments and made significant contributions to local politicians.

Last year, the state of Texas removed CDM for its poor performance in helping the city of Galveston in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, but Christie officials have said that the company’s duties in New Jersey are far different.

Specifically, money is allocated as follows:

  • $600 million to homeowners for rebuilding, rehabilitating, elevating and preventing against future floods. Seventy percent of the money is reserved for low-to-moderate-income households, with each owner getting no more than $150,000.
  • $200 million to provide $10,000 grants to help relocate Sandy-impacted homeowners stay in their homes, with 60 percent going to low-to-moderate-income households. This "resettlement program" will "stabilize neighborhoods by encouraging homeowners to stay and rebuild," according to the report.
  • $30 million for a “blight reduction program” to provide forgivable loans to developers who purchase and rehabilitate foreclosed, vacant or abandoned properties.
  • $25 million to give up to $50,000 apiece to low and moderate income New Jerseyans who want to buy a home.
  • $300 million that damaged small businesses can use toward rebuilding, equipment, inventory, flood mitigation, refinancing and capital.
  • $110 million to Sandy-affected municipalities for basic services and salaries for police officers, firefighters, teachers and public works employees.
  • $104.5 million to provide zero and low-interest loans to developers and public housing agencies to create new housing units.
  • $70 million for loans to owners of small rental buildings that were damaged by Sandy.
  • $10 million to help nonprofit housing developers acquire or clear difficult-to-develop sites.
  • $40 million toward “incentive” payments so rental property owners lease units to low and moderate households at affordable rents.

The administration said the storm caused $3.8 billion in damage to 86,700 units in houses and apartments. Four out of every five dollars will go to the nine counties hit the hardest: Atlantic, Bergen, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean and Union.

Christie said last month that the grant program would be in effect by the end of March or early April, and he is now running up against that deadline.

After a seven-day comment period that begins tomorrow, the plan will go the federal Housing and Urban Development agency for final approval. The agency could take as long as 45 days to approve the plan and release the funds — although it has said it expects the review process will move much more quickly.

After this allocation, as much as $3 billion more in Sandy housing money is expected to land in New Jersey.

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