Gov. Phil Murphy announced more aid is coming for residents still struggling to recover from Tropical Storm Ida’s damage one year ago.
When visiting Hillsborough to promote investments in resilient communities on Sept. 1, Murphy outlined the $283 million that has been awarded to New Jersey through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Funds.
“We are going to put these funds to use helping homeowners restore their storm-damaged homes, [and] supplement rental housing costs for storm impacted low-rental families,” he said.
The state is proposing to allocate $152 million for efforts that include helping homeowners supplement rental housing and provide forgivable loans to owners of damaged rental properties “so they can make the repairs necessary to get that unit in move in condition and back on the housing market, support the development of resilient and affordable housing in low flood risk areas and buy out residential properties in flood prone areas,” Murphy said.
The state will also make an additional $1 million available to provide support services including house counseling and legal aid to Tropical Storm Ida impacted homeowners and renters.
“The HUD Disaster Recovery Action Plan is out for public comment, and we welcome public input from Ida impacted residents and communities on how best to spend this federal funding,” Murphy said.
Additionally, $58 million is proposed for infrastructure programs that help impacted communities become more resilient to current and future natural hazards and $6 million to planning programs that develop a Statewide Housing Mitigation Strategy Tool to assess the housing stock in disaster-impacted and at-risk areas.
Murphy noted that the state will start an aggressive push through the Office of Emergency Management to work with property owners and community leaders to get New Jersey’s fair share of $3 billion in newly available Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant funds earmarked for homeowners and local resilience projects.
The state has rolled out a website – www.diasterhelp.nj.gov – that provides a directory of resources to prepare for and recover from disasters for residents, small businesses, nonprofit organizations and local governments.
“This new site will put everything in one place and will also include an interactive ‘Create your Disaster Recovery Plan Tool’ on the homepage to help you more quickly locate the programs that are best suited to help you,” he said.
Murphy said there is already more than $650 million distributed from state and federal funding for families and communities to get back on their feet.
“More than $250 million in FEMA direct household and individual assistance [has been provided] to more than 88,000 families,” he said. “More than $260 million in low-interest small business administration loans and direct grants and $56 million to municipalities like Hillsborough to help cover the staggering costs of clean up and repair.”
Funding also came through the following sources: New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Buyout Program, $50 million, DEP Elevation Program, $30 million, New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) Small Business Grants, $10.5 million and DEP community stormwater assistance grants, $10 million.
Tropical Storm Ida devastated communities across the state on Sept. 1 and saw a death toll of 30 people. The estimated economic impact from Tropical Storm Ida is $95 billion from Louisiana to New Jersey.
The damage impacted infrastructure, commercial and residential properties.
“Quite honestly Sept. 1 , I don’t need to be remind [everyone] of what happened. Driving [on] the parkway, I started seeing things that you would only see in an apocalypse movie. Cars and trucks thrown around like toy boxes,” Hillsborough Mayor Shawn Lipani said.
“I had never seen devastation like that, and I have been through a lot of storms here in Hillsborough for the last 20 years. God, how does nine inches of rain come out of the sky in two hours? That is just unbelievable.”
U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-7) said it is essential to invest billions in infrastructure and update stormwater management rules and practices for the current weather.
“We cannot continue this endless cycle of rebuilding and flooding and rebuilding. That is no way to live,” he said, adding “it is essential that all of us in New Jersey and beyond update our stormwater management practices.”
After marking one year since Tropical Storm Ida, Murphy called the progress in updating flood rules and data “complicated” as environmental organizations have become frustrated by the lack of progress.
“This is complicated, getting this balance right. Clearly, we are committed to resiliency that is unquestioned. But we have to get it right with the amount of infrastructure we have and infrastructure investments we are going to be making,” he said.