Public Comment Period Is Open for Plan to Transfer $3.1 Million to Sandy Recovery Housing Counseling Program and $3 Million to Rental Assistance Program
Trenton, NJ – The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA), Sandy Recovery Division is proposing to reallocate Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds to the Sandy Recovery Housing Counseling Program and Rental Assistance Program in order to meet the continuing needs of highly vulnerable households hit hard by Superstorm Sandy.
Under the proposal, DCA would transfer $3.1 million to the Sandy Recovery Housing Counseling Program to continue providing a wide range of counseling services to both renters and homeowners impacted by the storm. DCA would also shift $3 million to the Rental Assistance Program to meet the ongoing rental assistance needs for homeowners who are displaced while rebuilding their Sandy-damaged homes through the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation, and Mitigation (RREM) Program or the Low- to Moderate-Income (LMI) Homeowners Rebuilding Program. Lastly, DCA proposes to reallocate $4.3 million in surpluses from 14 disaster recovery programs to allow for the continued general management, oversight, and coordination in disbursing CDBG-DR funding.
None of the proposed reallocations of CDBG-DR funds would affect any existing funding commitment to any individual, business, community or project.
The Sandy Recovery Housing Counseling Program is a collaboration of non-profit, community-based agencies certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development whose counselors provide free supportive services such as foreclosure prevention, debt management, and rental guidance to Sandy-impacted individuals. Counselors at the agencies have been trained to use resources such as a language access phone line and “I Speak” cards to assist any applicant of limited English proficiency. To date, approximately 8,200 Sandy-impacted households have received housing counseling services through the program.
The $3.1 million to be transferred to the Sandy Recovery Housing Counseling Program would be shifted from the Tenant-Based Rental Assistance (TBRA) Program, which provides temporary rental assistance to low- and moderate-income (LMI) residents who lived at the time of the storm in one of the nine counties that the federal government determined were most impacted by Superstorm Sandy: Atlantic, Bergen, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, and Union. To date, 1,788 households have received TBRA assistance. Per federal regulation, all TBRA rent subsidies are scheduled to end December 31, 2018. DCA has determined that the funding shift would not impact the TBRA Program’s ability to fully serve all eligible TBRA recipients.
The proposed shift of $3 million to the Rental Assistance Program (RAP) would add to the $12.5 million that DCA has already allocated to the program, which provides rental assistance payments of up to $1,300 per month for a maximum period of 21 months to homeowners in the RREM and LMI Homeowners Rebuilding programs while they are displaced. These homeowners continue to work towards completing construction of their homes, but financial strain and a lack of available resources can make an additional rental payment the difference between finishing construction and abandoning their project. To date, approximately 2,400 homeowners have received assistance through RAP. The $3 million in additional funding for RAP would come from surplus funds from the Lead Hazard Risk Reduction Program, which has served all of its applicants and is in the process of closing.
Before DCA can reallocate the CDBG-DR funds, it must amend the New Jersey Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Action Plan to reflect the proposed changes. The Action Plan and all previously adopted amendments to the Action Plan guide the State’s use of CDBG-DR funding provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The current proposed reallocation of funds constitutes Amendment 27 of the Action Plan and requires a 30-day public comment period that must include a public hearing.
The public comment period began July 9, 2018 and closes at 5:00 p.m. on August 7, 2018. The public hearing is scheduled from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 31, 2018, at the Toms River Municipal Complex, 33 Washington Street, Toms River, NJ, 08753. Individuals are encouraged to comment on the proposed amendment at the public hearing, by submitting their comments via email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or by mailing comments to the attention of Lisa Ryan, Sandy Recovery Division, NJ Department of Community Affairs, 101 South Broad Street, P.O. Box 823, Trenton, NJ 08625. All comments are given equal weight regardless of the means of submission. After the public comment period closes, DCA will formally respond to the public comments and then will submit the proposed amendment to HUD for review and approval.
Action Plan Amendment 27 can be viewed in English and Spanish at www.renewjerseystronger.org/plans-reports.