18 months after Ida, feds could provide $228M to homeowners hit worst by deadly storm

 
By Stephen Rodas

The remnants of Hurricane Ida resulted in 30 deaths and $95 billion in property damage throughout New Jersey, which was among the states most opens in a new windowseverely hit by the storm more than a year ago.

State opens in a new windowofficials announced last week $228 million in federal Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds may be available for homeowners and communities still recovering. Officials said the rollout will likely start in March.

“There are still many people who are not fully back on their feet from Hurricane Ida,” Lt. Governor opens in a new windowSheila Oliver said in a statement.

Oliver, who also serves as the state Department of Community Affairs commissioner, added: “With (the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s) approval of our action plan, we can put these disaster recovery funds to use to get families back into their homes as quickly as possible and find opportunities to help communities build back even stronger.”

The state’s spending plan was submitted to HUD in September. In addition to those funds which require additional approval before disbursement, New Jersey was awarded another opens in a new window$149 million in federal recovery funds and $254 million in housing and opens in a new windowother relief from FEMA.

Some non-profit organizations, like the opens in a new windowNew Jersey Organizing Project which is focused on helping New Jerseyans recover after natural disasters, have long advocated for CDBG funds to be available immediately after storms. Delays in providing relief can mean residents are forced to relocate or rely on loans to make do, they said.

“Many Ida survivors have additional needs that won’t be covered by the CDBG-DR program, and there are still around 2,000 New Jersey families struggling with clawbacks from Superstorm Sandy,” Cameron Foster, with the New Jersey Organizing Project, told NJ Advance Media.

Clawbacks refer to assistance funding the opens in a new windowgovernment later indicated was overpaid, despite storm survivors initially encouraged to apply for it.

“We plan to ask the state for $100 million more for Ida recovery, which will likely cover rental assistance funds for Hurricane Ida families, reimbursement money for contract (work) people have already completed, additional money for people in different income buckets that won’t be served through the CDBG-DR grants, special cases, and a more flexible funding source for people who don’t fit in federal guidelines, but who need help recovering,” Foster said earlier this month while discussing the group’s priorities for 2023.

Still, he noted, the latest CDBG-DR allocation would provide some much-needed relief.

According to the Department of Community Affairs’ opens in a new windowfact sheetopens PDF file at least 80% of the funds will go to Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Passaic, Somerset, and Union counties. The rest will be provided to the following “disaster-impacted” counties: Gloucester, Hunterdon, Mercer, Morris, and Warren.

“In the HUD-approved plan for the $228 million, at least 70 percent of these funds will benefit low- to moderate-income persons or households,” state officials said in an announcement.

Gov. opens in a new windowPhil Murphy said now that the state has cleared the latest federal approval of its spending plan, “we will continue moving forward with the job of repairing from Ida and building more resilient communities, preparing us for the next storm.”

The state’s action plan includes:

  • $68.9 million for the Homeowner Assistance and Recovery Program (HARP), which provides grants of up to $300,000 for single-family homeowners to restore, rehabilitate and elevate structures
  • $30 million for “Smart Move,” a subsidy for communities to develop resilient and affordable housing in lower flood risk areas within or near storm-impacted areas participating in residential property buyout programs like Blue Acres
  • $20 million for a Small Rental Repair Program, providing zero-interest, forgivable loans to owners of rental properties with one to seven units that require renovations post-Ida
  • $16 million for the Blue Acres Program, which involves the voluntary buyout of residential properties located in flood zones
  • $15 million for the Tenant-Based Rental Assistance Program, thus rental assistance for low-income households impacted by Ida
  • $3 million for counseling and legal services, including helping residents navigate resources such as the CDBG-DR-funded programs, foreclosure prevention, relocation services and debt management

In addition, $54 million will be doled out to make communities more resilient to storms that are becoming fiercer due to climate change, $4 million in for state and local government to rebuild, $5 million for the Resilient New Jersey program as part of mitigation efforts and $1 million to help create a tool “to assess the housing stock in disaster-impacted and at-risk areas, particularly low- to moderate-income communities.”

For updates on the programs visit, opens in a new windownj.gov/dca/ddrm/home/idasurvey.shtml.

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