Pascrell Renews Call for State to Reopen Grant Programs for Home Elevations
By Mel Fabrikant Wednesday, January 15 2014 @ 04:00 PM EST
Revised state plan still leaves thousands of families waitlisted for federal funds
WASHINGTON - In continuing his efforts to assist families devastated by Hurricane Sandy, today U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09) renewed his call for Governor Christie to reopen applications for two federally funded grant programs that would help homeowners impacted by Sandy complete the required elevations of their homes. Today's announcement of the amended New Jersey Disaster Recovery Action Plan still leaves thousands of families on waitlists for critical federal Sandy recovery. Rep. Pascrell submitted public comments to Governor Christie's office urging a modification to the amendment to reopen the RREM program and allocate additional federal funds to this program.
“I’m pleased that more federal disaster recovery dollars will be making their way directly to homeowners so that they can repair and elevate their Sandy damaged homes," said Rep. Pascrell. "While this infusion of funding is welcome, there will still be over 7,500 families on the waitlist for these grants, and countless others who did not receive substantial damage declarations and were not given the opportunity to apply in the first place. Given these considerations, I strongly urge Governor Christie to reopen the application process for these grants, commit more funding from future CDBG allocations to homeowners, work with our federal partners to expedite the process to get this funding in the hands of Sandy-damage New Jerseyans so they may rebuild their homes and lives.”
Homeowners in communities devastated by Sandy, including Little Ferry, were informed months after the grant programs to fund the elevations expired that the extent of the damage to their property was severe enough that their homes would have to be elevated. Additionally, homeowners were plagued with delays in determination of substantial damage letters, which created problems in RREM funding.
Because of the confusion surrounding these programs, in October Congressman Pascrell wrote to Governor Christie urging him to reopen applications for the RREM program, which closed on the arbitrary date of August 1, 2013. This is essential so that homeowners in New Jersey still recovering from Sandy can access the federal funding which Congress provided to help them. The State of New Jersey has responded that the determination to reopen the RREM application will depend upon the allocation of sufficient future CDBG funds to first provide awards to all homeowners on the waitlist.
The full text of the letter follows. A link to the signed letter can be found here.
October 16, 2013
The Honorable Chris Christie
Governor of the State of New Jersey
PO Box 001
Trenton, NJ 08625
Dear Governor Christie:
I write today to urge you to reopen applications for the Homeowner Rehabilitation, Reconstruction, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program as well as the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) Elevation Program to homeowners that have only recently, and after the deadline for applications to both programs were past, received a determination of “substantial damage” due to Hurricane Sandy.
The State of New Jersey provided Sandy-impacted municipalities with a list of properties determined to have been substantially damaged just six weeks ago. As you know, this determination triggers the requirement that certain properties be elevated in order to participate in the National Flood Insurance Program. Many of my constituents in towns such as Little Ferry received notice of the need to elevate only after the application periods for federally funded elevation assistance had already closed. These damage assessments should have been completed months ago so that homeowners could have known what was required of them when undertaking repairs on their homes and had the opportunity to apply for federal relief.
These homeowners were shocked to learn of the elevation requirement for the first time nearly ten months after the storm, just as their lives are finally returning to normal. Many of my constituents have already put thousands of dollars in insurance and federal assistance funding toward extensive repairs on their homes. With the closing of applications for the RREM program on August 1st and the HMGP Elevation Program on September 16th, these residents have been shut out from receiving any federal resources to help elevate their homes without even having had the opportunity to apply.
This is unacceptable. Extending the application periods for RREM Program, which provides grants of up to $150,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant Disaster Relief (CDBG-DR) funding, as well as the HMGP Elevation Program, which provides up to $30,000 in federal FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funding, would give these homeowners much-needed access to the help they are entitled to. I further urge you to commit funding from future rounds of CDBG-DR funding to these programs if it is necessary to meet the additional demand for elevation assistance.
Thank you for your consideration of this important request. I look forward to your prompt response.
Bill Pascrell, Jr.
Member of Congress
CC: Mr. Marc Ferzan
Director, Office of Recovery and Rebuilding