A year after Ida, additional recovery funds are slow to flow in New Jersey
HILLSBOROUGH — A year after the remnants of Hurricane Ida inundated parts of New Jersey and triggered the state’s strongest tornado in 31 years, Governor Phil Murphy celebrated the anniversary during a visit to the County of Somerset with the promise of additional recovery funds to come.
Thirty people have died from Ida in New Jersey, many of them on flooded roads or in flooded apartments.
So far, more than $650 million in federal and state funds have been spent on Ida’s recovery and response. The federal government gave the go-ahead in May to $228 million in block recovery grants, and the state’s plan for that funding must be finalized and submitted for federal approval by the end of September.
Gov. Phil Murphy has acknowledged the slow process of getting the block grant programs in place, now a year after what he called one of the most significant natural disasters in state history.
“There’s still a lot of people who aren’t up yet,” Murphy said. “We know some of these programs, but how they work can be a pain to follow. They take time. But I will say this: we will stay with you until you are up.
It is proposed that the expenses of the recovery plan Ida include:
- $152 million for housing programs that help homeowners restore storm-damaged homes; supplement rental housing costs for low-income renter families affected by Hurricane Ida; provide interest-free forgivable loans to owners of rental properties that require rehabilitation following storm damage; subsidize the development of resilient and affordable housing in low flood risk areas; and repurchase residential properties located in flood-prone areas.
- An additional $1 million is proposed to provide support services such as housing counseling and legal assistance to tenants and landlords affected by Hurricane Ida.
- $58 million for infrastructure programs that help affected communities become more resilient to current and future natural hazards, protect state-funded recovery investments in affected communities, and fund non-federal cost-sharing for State and local facilities eligible under FEMA’s public assistance program.
- $6 million for planning programs that develop a statewide Housing Mitigation Strategy Tool to assess housing stock in disaster-affected and at-risk areas and that builds on Resilient NJ’s existing efforts, a suite of post-Super Hurricane Sandy climate resilience planning, guidance, and technical assistance programs to support local and regional climate resilience planning.
Hearings on the plan will be held Sept. 8 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Manville High School and Sept. 12 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Campus Center Ballroom at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark.
The recovery money spent so far includes:
- Federal Emergency Management Agency household and personal assistance: more than $250 million
- Small Business Administration disaster loans: more than $250 million
- FEMA public assistance through the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management to state and local governments: over $56 million
- New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection buyout program for flood-prone properties: $50 million
- DEP Elevation Program: $30 million
- New Jersey Economic Development Authority Small Business Grants: $10.5 million
- DEP Community Stormwater Assistance Grants: $10 million
Murphy and U.S. Representative Tom Malinowski, D-Ringoes, have linked the damage from Ida — and Floyd, Irene and Sandy before it, as major tropical storm impacts since 1999 — as proof the state needs to get stronger and mitigate climate impacts currency.
“As a country and as a global community, we need to do something about the weather that is killing us,” Malinowski said. “We need to do something about the underlying causes of these extreme, increasingly extreme storms that are affecting every part of this country.
“There is no debate in New Jersey that climate change is real,” he said. “To us, climate change is 5 feet of water in your basement. It’s the Hillsborough Fire and Police Department becoming a navy and rescuing people in boats from their homes, far away from all sides.
Despite forecasts of above-average hurricane activity this year in the Atlantic Ocean, September started with no hurricanes yet recorded. A storm reached tropical storm status on Thursday, named Danielle, and could become a hurricane despite already being in the North Atlantic, far from land.
Still, Federal Emergency Management Agency Regional Administrator David Warrington urged people to be prepared.
“We’ve been lucky so far, but we’re just in prime time, September, October for the East Coast to be vulnerable,” Warrington said. “With that, as we learned last year, even minor storms, storms that we don’t necessarily think will have an impact, have proven to be extremely devastating to infrastructure, communities and individuals. “
Murphy also announced the launch of Disasterhelp.nj.gov, a new website where individuals, businesses and local governments can navigate available federal and state recovery resources following a storm.
Damage from Hurricane Ida in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast
Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana as a Category 4 hurricane on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Relief efforts are now underway for the entire region.