BARNES BILL REQUIRING DISASTER RELIEF BE BASED ON DAMAGE SUSTAINED CLEARS COMMITTEE

Senator Peter J. Barnes III

TRENTON Legislation sponsored by Senator Peter J. Barnes that would require that state and federal disaster relief aid be distributed in the state according to damage sustained, in order to ensure that areas hardest hit receive their fair share of funding, was approved today by the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee.

The bill, S-2437, also known as the “Disaster Victims Protection Act,” would require the Governor to allocate Federal and State disaster relief aid to municipalities where residents and businesses have been seriously affected by a disaster. Funds would be distributed according to the amount of physical damage suffered within each affected town or city. This method would ensure that residential victims and business owners in the most heavily damaged areas following a disaster receive assistance first before funding is allocated to economic development and redevelopment projects. Under the legislation, residents and businesses most impacted by a disaster would receive aid equal to the amount of damages they sustained.

“We must ensure that all residents receive the financial assistance necessary to rebuild their lives after a natural disaster,” said Senator Barnes (D-Middlesex). “Hurricane Sandy was a major lesson for our state and especially for those who sustained damages to their homes and businesses as a result of the storm. This bill would ensure that federal and state funding are distributed fairly and appropriately to areas most affected by natural disasters. This is the right thing to do for victims of disasters and for the entire state.”

In response to the unprecedented damage to this State caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, New Jersey received billions of federal dollars from Congress in the form of Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds to support the State’s rebuilding and reconstruction efforts, according to the February 2015 Fair Housing Report. With approval from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Governor allocated millions of dollars to housing development projects within the nine most-impacted counties, as designated by HUD, which include Atlantic, Bergen, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, and Union counties. This bill would ensure that when considering allocation for affected areas after a natural disaster, the distribution is fair and equitable and is according to needs and damages.

“The Disaster Victims Protection Act is essential for the revitalization of our state’s towns and cities,” added Senator Barnes. “While redevelopment and economic development projects are important, priority should be given to residents and businesses in towns who have been hit the hardest by a disaster. Providing financial assistance to areas impacted the most is the first step to ensuring residents who have been affected are able to begin rebuilding their lives.”

S-2437 was approved with a vote of 5-0. It now heads to the Senate for consideration.