New Hurricane Sandy Funds Released; What Happens Next?

November 18, 2013 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

thunderstorm-1385041-mThis was totally unplanned, but today we provide a sequel to our blog post from Friday in which we discussed the frustration among local housing groups in New Jersey as federal housing funds to help recover from Hurricane Sandy are being channeled through the state at a mere trickle. Now, we discover there’s more federal help on the way. Let’s see what happens to this round of funding.

In today’s Federal Register, the Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a second allocation of Community Development Block Grant disaster recovery (CDBG-DR) funds appropriated by the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 to assist recovery in the most impacted and distressed areas identified in major disaster declarations due to Hurricane Sandy and other eligible events in calendar years 2011, 2012 and 2013. The allocation provides $5.1 billion primarily to assist Hurricane Sandy recovery as well as recovery from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. The notice also establishes requirements governing the use of these funds.

Along with New Jersey, the funds are being made available to the Connecticut, Maryland, New York City, New York State and Rhode Island. There is an interesting provision regarding the timing of these funds. The notice states that the Appropriations Act requires that funds be expended within two years of the date HUD obligates funds to a grantee, and funds are obligated to a grantee upon HUD’s signing of a grantee’s CDBG-DR grant agreement. A state must demonstrate how funds will be fully expended within two years of obligation, and HUD must obligate all funds not later than Sept. 30, 2017.

Wait, what, 2017? That’s four years from now. As we found out from Friday’s blog post, the communities are clamoring for the funds NOW, and the law discusses obligating funds no later than September 2017? Where’s the urgency?

So while communities wait and wait for emergency assistance, the red tape continues to bog things down. After seeing pictures from yesterday’s tornadoes in the Midwest, they likely will be needing similar housing assistance. How soon will their help arrive? I understand the funds must be spent “as appropriate,” but I still say that emergencies following natural disasters, which seem to be growing more severe every year, require a whole new set of rules to get this money out to the people that really need it at a quicker pace.

Again, I ask if I’m being naive or is the red tape really necessary to ensure the grants are managed properly to prevent potential fraud? Let us know what you think.



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