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Hillsborough Reaches Out
for Recovery Funds

Mayor Frank DelCore
By Frank DelCore
Mayor, Hillsborough Township

In the days following super storm Sandy, municipalities across the State of New Jersey were faced with the daunting task of a clean-up and restoration of epic proportions.

Tapping into resources from the state and national government was instrumental in the clean-up effort of our Hillsborough community.

Hillsborough Township was one of the municipalities within Somerset County that took the initiative to apply for and ultimately received national assistance through three programs:

  • FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency;
  • a $15.6 million National Emergency Grant obtained by the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development; and
  • the New Jersey State Youth Corps.

t was a collaborative effort on behalf of our township, Somerset County, the Department of Labor and the Christie Administration to secure both the local and national resources.

FEMA was one of the first organizations to arrive on the scene in Hillsborough. Shortly after the storm, a team of Iron Wood Hotshots from Arizona descended upon the township for six days with their chainsaws in hand to clear fallen and uprooted trees throughout the area.

In the days immediately following the storm, Hillsborough Administrator Anthony Ferrera also worked to secure assistance through the state Labor Department, which provided members of its Youth Corps program for a myriad of tasks. Their efforts were part of the $15.6 million National Emergency Grant to help communities throughout New Jersey in their clean-up and recovery efforts.

Workers posing at a roadside cleanup area.

National Emergency Grants are part of the United States Secretary of Labor’s discretionary fund and are awarded based on a state’s ability to meet specific guidelines. These grants can be used by approved municipalities, county governments and state agencies to assist with clean-up and humanitarian work resulting from a disaster.

The $15.6 million grant obtained by the Christie Administration just days after Sandy hit is providing temporary employment for individuals on clean-up, demolition, repair, renovation and reconstruction projects at public structures, facilities and lands. Additional temporary jobs may also be created for those working on projects that provide food, clothing, shelter and other humanitarian assistance for disaster victims.

In Somerset County, the recruiting and screening of potential workers under the grant was done by the Greater Raritan Workforce Investment Board, an arm of the county administration. They, in turn, worked with individual municipalities, such as ours, to apply for the grant funds.

Hillsborough had to identify relief, restoration and clean-up projects and determine how to deploy the workers to be hired under the grant. It was the Greater Raritan One Stop Career Center, operated by the Workforce Investment Board, who handled the recruiting, screening and hiring of the employees who were eventually enlisted by communities such as Hillsborough.

It was a win-win for everyone. Hillsborough Township received much needed resources after the storm and unemployed individuals were able to secure those temporary positions.

By early December, temporary workers were brought in to assist with the hard work already begun by the Hillsborough Department of Public Works and the Parks Department. Hillsborough’s share of the National Emergency Grant enabled the township to enlist 11 workers to cleanup public lands in the 54-square-mile township.

Hillsborough is still using these individuals as the weather permits.

The grant program was open to people who were unemployed as a direct result of the storm or who were among New Jersey’s long-term unemployed and no longer received unemployment benefits. Individuals who met the requirements were given temporary assignments throughout Somerset County.

Hillsborough also benefited from the efforts of members of New Jersey Youth Corps following the storm. The group is one of the largest youth service and conservation corps in the United States. The Youth Corps is a year-round voluntary program, funded and managed through the state Labor Department, which engages young adults, ages 16 through 25, in fulltime community service, training and educational activities.

Guided by a staff of people who serve as mentors and role models, the teams or “crews” perform a wide range of public service projects. In the process of their community work, the Youth Corps members receive educational development, obtain support services, find personal and career counseling, and learn employment and life skills.

In Hillsborough, the crews assisted senior and disabled residents with debris removal.

We consider ourselves fortunate to have had the numerous resources available to our community.

On Thursday, January 24, 2013, Hillsborough Township hosted Labor Commissioner Harold J. Wirths. I joined him to tour some of the worksites within our community that were being addressed by the crews.

As of this writing, 512 requests for clean-up assistance have been addressed within the township by the NEG workers and Youth Corps in conjunction with Hillsborough’s Department of Public Works. As of the time we went to press with this article, 30,000 cubic yards of storm debris had been collected.

The FEMA crew that was initially deployed cleared 94 hazardous trees (leaning, blocking pathways, etc.). The trees, which ranged from 20 to 80 feet in height, were cut into manageable sections for further cleanup.

The Commissioner chose Hillsborough Township as an area to tour in the ongoing Sandy recovery efforts in New Jersey in large part due to our participation in the Department of Labor programs. The January 24 tour included a visit to our debris facility and a stop at a rural location where the National Emergency Grant workers had recently been working.

 

 

First Published in New Jersey Municipalities, Volume 90, Number 4, April 2013

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