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April 2013 Featured Article

 

Superstorm Sandy Action Plan Sent to HUD

Triad Associates

 

Superstorm Sandy reeked havoc across much of New Jersey’s coastal communities, destroying some and severely damaging others. Following the passage of special federal legislation allocating $1.829 billion in funding to New Jersey, the State developed an Action Plan for the use of those funds which was sent to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on March 27, 2013.

 

The Action Plan also details the criteria for funding eligibility and defines how the use of these funds will address disaster relief, long-term recovery, restoration of infrastructure and housing and economic revitalization in the most impacted and distressed areas of the State. HUD has 45 days to review the plan and approval is anticipated in April.

 

It is estimated that more than 37,000 primary residences and 9,300 seasonal residences sustained severe or major damage. Additionally, there was approximately $332,000,000 in commercial property losses which resulted from the storm. Following HUD’s review and approval of the New Jersey Action Plan, funding will begin moving from the federal government to the state, and ultimately to the property owners and communities impacted. If your municipality has been impacted by Superstorm Sandy, your local officials need to be ready to handle questions, coordinate programs and accommodate the many demands that will stem from this massive flow of funds.

 

The following are a number of actions that can be taken to ensure that information and funding is flowing efficiently to your community:

1. Be Informed and Engaged. The State has done an excellent job of making information about Superstorm Sandy, its impact and follow-up available online for municipal officials and the general public. There are many good web pages that can help people and organizations navigate the maze of agencies and programs offering assistance. There are two websites in particular for which references should be posted in every municipal building. They are:

www.nj.gov/dca/announcements/sandy.html

www.state.nj.us/njoem/programs/sandy_recovery.html

 

These web pages provide a wealth of information about the range of assistance available and how to obtain it. There are also links to the New Jersey Action Plan that explains the State’s vision and protocol for channeling federal funding to local communities and property owners.

2. Develop Detailed Cost Estimates. The State Action Plan identifies six areas where federal funding will be targeted; they are:

    • Homeowner Housing;
    • Rental Housing;
    • Economic Revitalization;
    • Support for Governmental Entities;
    • Supportive Services Programs; and
    • Planning, Oversight and Monitoring

 

In each of these program areas, there are a number of funding opportunities – some involving direct grants, others involving loans. Homeowners and business owners need to know the extent to which they are eligible for funding. Some of the funding will be provided on a first come, first serve basis. Other funding will be tied to income eligibility. All of this information is outlined in the Action Plan. Municipal governments, fire districts, school districts and other local entities are eligible for public services grants to address gaps in service funding resulting from the storm. The bottom line is that communities must act now to ensure that information, project identification and other systems are in place now to handle to the implementation of program funds when they are released shortly.

 

3. Identify a Point Person to Coordinate Relief in your Community. Even in small communities, there can be a lot of confusion about what municipal official, which agency or nonprofit organization is applying for which pot of funding. It may be helpful to designate an official Superstorm Sandy point of contact in your community to ensure that funding is efficiently and appropriately directed, and that there is no duplication of applications, missions or projects.

4. Ensure Clarity. Another advantage of a single point of contact is that having one individual or agency charged with disseminating information locally can mitigate the chance that bad information gets circulated. Even now, with all of the information provided on-line, in the newspapers, and by government agencies, there is conflicting information circulating about program eligibility. Go directly to the source. Get information directly from the agencies being charged with its dissemination. Don’t rely on second hand or hearsay information, since being misled could result in significant funding delays and added hardships for your community.

 

5. Make Noise. In an environment where so much money is being channeled so quickly, there is bound to be confusion even in the best of circumstances. Publicize the ongoing needs of your community, businesses and residents. Get your projects, funding needs and redevelopment goals in front of the appropriate state agency and official. Having your own action plan in place and your needs clearly and precisely identified will help you make your case to program funders.

 

6. Provide Technical Assistance. For people and businesses who have lost everything or who have been severely impacted, this sense of loss can be overwhelming. Most people do not know where to turn or how to navigate the layers of information and assistance available to them. Set up a hot line. Identify individuals in your community whose job it is to provide technical help to property owners, developers and others seeking assistance. The faster and more efficiently your stakeholders can find their way to the appropriate programs, the better your community’s chances are for recovery.

Perhaps never before in the history of the State have so many communities and individuals faced such massive development and redevelopment challenges. Meeting these challenges will require the coordination and resources of everyone at the municipal, county and state levels. The clock is ticking. Funding is on its way. Be ready!

 

Triad Associates is currently the League’s Grant Consulting Firm. Their firm, which is known for its expertise in community and economic development, including strategic planning, redevelopment, acquisition, relocation and funding, has brought diverse plans and projects to life by generating more than $580,000,000 for over 120 public, private and nonprofit clients throughout the Northeast region since 1978. Every member of the Triad team is personally committed and dedicated to the success of its clients and the projects that benefit communities. 

 

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