- Jay Barry Harris (1955-2016)
- Eric C. Rosenberg
New Jersey is set to receive $1.46 billion in a second payment of federal funds to aid the state in recovering from Hurricane Sandy. Governor Christie has unveiled his spending plan for the funds, focusing primarily on providing assistance to those in need of homes. Approximately half of the money will be put toward homeowner assistance, rental housing, and rental programs, with the remaining funds going to infrastructure programs, local governments, and planning and oversight. New Jersey received $1.8 billion last year in the first phase of the funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), however the spending plan indicates the state still has $19 billion in unmet needs. Most of the recovery programs remain underfunded.
Christie has devoted $390 million in the new spending plan to the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation program (RREM), making it the largest single line-item expense in the plan. RREM received $710 million in its first round of federal aid, and provides Community Development Block Grants of up to $150,000 per resident to assist in repairing storm-damaged homes. The newest funding will allow RREM to provide an additional 3,000 grants to eligible homeowners. Community Development Block Grants are approved by HUD and is available to states after they have exhausted other sources of funds such as FEMA and private insurance. Thus far, HUD has required the 80% of the grants go to homeowners in the nine counties most severely affected by the storm.
Additionally, the plan provides for $100 million in homeowner assistance would be used to purchase flood-prone homes and convert them into open space, and an additional $220 million being spent on affordable housing. Critics have questioned whether this expenditure would meet HUD’s requirement that half of the funding be allocated to low- to moderate-income households. Christie has also requested $17 million from HUD in tenant-based housing vouchers for low-income families. Aside from housing needs, $530 million will go toward infrastructure programs, including an energy resilience bank, designed to keep key public facilities such as hospitals and water treatment plants running in the event of an expansive power outage. The plan also directs $150 million toward economic development and government service, and $83 million to planning and oversight.