New Jersey is largely on track to meet the targets it set for helping low- and moderate-income families recover from Superstorm Sandy with one exception – the grant program that encourages homeowners to continue living in the same county.
Across the state’s nine housing recovery grant programs, nearly 75 percent of awards have gone to low- or moderate-income (LMI) households, according the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, which administers these grants. However, only 44 percent of funds for the state’s Resettlement Program have been awarded to low-and-moderate income homes, well short of the state’s goal of 60 percent.
Ensuring everyone can get aid
Shortly after Superstorm Sandy struck New Jersey in October 2012, state officials expressed concern about the storm’s impact on LMI families, which is defined as households earning below 80 percent of their county’s median average.
It was clear that many of these families might need help. Some 30,000 households – just under half of FEMA’s Individual Assistance applicants with major or severe damage to their homes – were LMI families.
To address this, New Jersey created grant programs to distribute federal aid money and promised significant portions of each grant would be dedicated to LMI applicants.
Incentives to stay
The Resettlement Program offered homeowners $10,000 to use toward non-contruction expenses if they promised to remain in their current county for three years. The state initially designated $180 million to the program, of which 60 percent or $108 million was targeted to LMI households.
Despite not meeting its targets, the Resettlement grant has made progress from the end of September, when only 37 percent of its awards had been made to LMI households.
Money to repair homes
LMI families are faring better under the state’s Sandy recovery RREM fund, which gives homeowners grants of up to $150,000 to use toward construction costs. Under this program, 70 percent of funds are supposed to be directed to LMI recipients.
Thus far, the RREM program is exceeding that target, allocating 75 percent of its 4,000 awards to LMI applicants. (While the targets are for the amount of money paid out to LMI households, current RREM grant data available from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs is for the number of awardees – a slightly different metric).
If New Jersey misses the LMI targets it established for an individual program, it will not face any consequences from the federal government as long as 50 percent of the funds across all its programs go to low- and moderate-income families.