Feds approve New Jersey’s plan to spend Hurricane Ida aid

(The Center Square) — New Jersey is moving ahead with plans to spend $228 million in disaster funds to help cover damages caused by Hurricane Ida, which carved a path of destruction across the state nearly two years ago.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has approved the state’s plans to spend the previously allocated federal funds to restore Ida damaged homes, provide ongoing rental assistance, buy out homes in communities vulnerable to chronic flooding, and pay for infrastructure resiliency projects to protect the state from future storms.

“New Jersey’s communities are still dealing with the effects Hurricane Ida left behind,” Gov. Phil Murphy said in a statement. “But with federal approval of our Action Plan, we will continue moving forward with the job of repairing from Ida and building more resilient communities, preparing us for the next storm.”

He said the spending focuses on helping low income and moderate income homeowners rebuild, assisting tenant households with their rent, and investing in flood mitigation projects.

Money for the disaster aid comes from federal Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds, with $2 billion for disaster relief approved by Congress in November as part of a stop-gap spending bill.

Among the initiatives the Murphy administration plans to fund with its Hurricane Ida Action Plan:

The Homeowner Assistance and Recovery Program will receive $68.9 million to provide grants to eligible homeowners to restore their Ida damaged homes, including rehabilitation, reconstruction, elevation, and/or mitigation activities such as utility retrofits, grading and slope stabilization, and drainage improvements. The grants are capped at $300,000 for a single-family home. The Smart Move program will receive $30 million to subsidize the development of “quality, energy-efficient, resilient, and affordable housing” in lower flood risk areas within or near storm impacted communities that are participating in residential property buyout programs. The Small Rental Repair Program will receive $20 million to provide zero-interest, forgivable loans to owners of rental properties with one to seven units that need to be rehabilitated because of damage from the storm. The Tenant-Based Rental Assistance Program will receive $15 million to provide rental assistance to low-income households impacted by Hurricane Ida who rent, with priority given to households with incomes at or below 30% of area median income.

Ida was one of the strongest to hit New Jersey in years. It claimed at least 30 lives, causing widespread flooding and power outages as well as millions of dollars in damages to homes and businesses, according to state officials

Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver said HUD’s approval of the plan will allow the state to distribute disaster recovery funds “to get families back into their homes as quickly as possible and find opportunities to help communities build back even stronger.”

“There are still many people who are not fully back on their feet from Hurricane Ida,” Oliver said.

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