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Greenstein/Gordon To Introduce Legislation To Help Flood Victims

A view of the Senate Chambers from the 2010-2011 Senate Reorganization.

Measure Would Permit Municipalities To Use Affordable Housing Trust Fund Monies To Provide Grants To Homeowners, Businesses

TRENTON – Senators Linda Greenstein (D-Middlesex/Mercer) and Bob Gordon (D-Bergen) today announced they plan to introduce legislation to help low- and moderate-income families and business owners recoup property losses sustained from flooding following Hurricane Irene.

The bill would establish the Municipal Natural Disaster Relief Grant Program to allow local governments to provide aid to homeowners and small businesses for repairs necessary to occupy the buildings if the costs are not adequately covered by federal assistance granted through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“Homes and businesses across the state sustained significant damage in the wake of Hurricane Irene and the storms that followed,” said Greenstein. “While federal assistance has been made available, for many families and small business owners it just won’t be enough. This grant program will provide critical funding to help flood victims who otherwise would be unable to afford necessary repairs.”

The legislation would permit municipalities to use up to 15 percent of the revenues generated by affordable housing development fees to provide grants of up to $10,000 to homeowners and up to $15,000 for business owners, who are without insurance and for whom the repayment of a low-interest federal or state loan would constitute extreme hardship.

“Residents who were already struggling in the down economy have now found themselves with mounting expenses in the wake of these devastating storms. Sadly, the high cost of repairs has made it impossible for many property owners to return to their homes and for business owners to re-open their doors,” said Gordon. “This local government program will give residents the additional assistance they need to pay for much-needed repairs, so they can begin the process of rebuilding their lives.”

Grant funds could be used to support the repair, purchase, and installation of systems equipment by property owners residing in disaster areas. Under the bill, “systems equipment” means plumbing, heating, electrical, ventilating, air conditioning, refrigerating, and fire prevention equipment, and elevators, dumbwaiters, escalators, boilers, pressure vessels, kitchen appliances and other mechanical facilities or installations. Financial assistance could also be used to pay for repairs necessary for the issuance of a certificate of occupancy for the property.

A municipality wishing to participate would have to establish, by resolution, a Municipal Natural Disaster Relief Grant Program. The municipality’s program would need approval from the state Department of Community Affairs. Property owners in the affected area would have six full months after state approval of a municipality’s Municipal Natural Disaster Grant Program to file an application for grant funding with the municipality. Under the bill, monies granted by a municipality could not be used for any damage or loss which is met by any other source.

The Senators plan to introduce the legislation at the next Senate quorum call. The measure is expected to be introduced in the General Assembly by Assemblymen Wayne DeAngelo and Dan Benson (both D-Mercer/Middlesex) and Assemblywoman Connie Wagner (D-Bergen).

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