An action plan that outlines how New Jersey will spend $1.8 billion in Hurricane Sandy relief aid was submitted to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for review Thursday.
The aid will be used for Community Development Block Grants, which are designed to help homeowners, renters, business owners and communities still rebuilding following the late October storm.
According to a release, the Action Plan focuses primarily on the nine counties most affected by the storm, including Monmouth, Ocean, Cape May, and Atlantic Counties. The grant funding is expected to assist approximately 26,000 homeowners, more than 5,000 renters, and more than 10,000 businesses, as well as local municipalities.
Among the expenditures are $600 million for the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation Program. Funding of up to $150,000 will be issued to qualified homeowners with 70 percent of the funds being reserved for low to moderate income households.
The Housing Resettlement Program will be funded to the tune of $200 million. The program is aimed at Sandy-impacted homeowners who sustained storm damage and who are considering selling or abandoning their property.
Other Action Plan line items include, $30 million for Blight Reduction, and $25 million for Sand Home Buyer Assistance, which will provide financial assistance to those looking to purchase a home.
According to a release, members of the public had an opportunity to comment on the Action Plan during a recently-ended seven day period. The plan was submitted to HUD, which has 45 days to approve or reject it.
Some organizations have challenged the Action Plan based on the limited amount of time the public had to review it. Both the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey and the Rutgers Constitutional Litigation Clinic said the public was only granted seven days to review or submit comments on the plan. In those seven days, no public hearing was scheduled and the strategy, according to the ACLU, does not include public input.
The Fair Share Housing Center claims the Action Plan does not adequately meet the needs of the state's low income residents affected by Sandy.
According to FSHC Associate Director Kevin Walsh, 80 percent of the lowest income people impacted by Sandy are renters, but only 20 percent of the people covered by the state's plan are renters. In a release, Walsh called on HUD to ensure that the aid is distributed fairly to all of Sandy's victims.
As required by law, at least 50 percent of the CDBG funding must be used to help low-to-moderate-income families recover, according to the State, though in many instances the Action Plan exceeds the 50 percent mark.
“The programs designed as part of the Action Plan will help address the unmet needs of Sandy-impacted homeowners, renters, and business owners as they rebuild their lives and recover from their losses,” Gov. Chris Christie said in a release.