NJ wants to reroute $29 million in Sandy aid to lower-income homeowners

 A woman holds a sign calling on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to help victims of Superstorm Sandy during a protest rally outside the New Jersey Statehouse in May. (Wayne Parry/AP Photo)

A woman holds a sign calling on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to help victims of Superstorm Sandy during a protest rally outside the New Jersey Statehouse in May. (Wayne Parry/AP Photo)

New Jersey is seeking approval from the federal government to divert $29 million in Sandy aid into a program to help low- and moderate-income homeowners rebuild.

The state had allocated $40 million for the program that provides grants up to $150,000, said David Reiner, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Community Affairs.

There are now 540 applicants, and Reiner said more funding is needed to prevent a waiting list for people who’ve been out of their homes for almost three years.

“If they’re in this program, I don’t think they’ve given up. I think they saw the opportunity to take part in this program and get the assistance they needed,” he said. “I think it’s a variety of reasons why other people may not have been in the REMM program or this program. Some folks may have had other sources of funding.”

The money for the program would come from other Sandy-related programs that got more funding than needed.

Staci Berger, president and CEO of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, said the program will help residents still holding out hope to rebuild.

“We think it’s very important to make sure that low- and moderate-income families have the resources in a timely fashion to rebuild their homes so they can get to the business of raising their families and going to work,” Berger said.

A public hearing on the plan to transfer those funds will be held at Brookdale Community College on July 21 before the state sends it to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development for final approval.

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