One year after Ida, added recovery funds slow to flow in NJ
HILLSBOROUGH – One year after the remnants of Hurricane Ida flooded portions of New Jersey and touched off the state’s strongest tornado in 31 years, Gov. Phil Murphy marked the anniversary in a visit to Somerset County with a promise of more recovery funds to come.
Thirty people died due to Ida in New Jersey, many of them on flooded roads or in flooded apartments.
More than $650 million in federal and state funds have been spent on Ida recovery and response so far. The federal government in May greenlighted $228 million in recovery block grants, and the state’s plan for that funding must be finalized and submitted for federal approval by late September.
Gov. Phil Murphy acknowledged the slow process for putting in place the block-grant programs, now a year past what he called one of the most significant natural disasters in state history.
“There are still lots people out there who are not yet on their feet,” Murphy said. “We know some of these programs, just the way they work can be painful to work your way through. They take time. But I will say this: We will stay with you until you are on your feet.”
The Ida recovery plan spending is proposed to include:
- $152 million to housing programs that help homeowners restore their storm-damaged homes; supplement rental housing costs for low-income rental families impacted by Hurricane Ida; provide zero interest forgivable loans to owners of rental properties that require rehabilitation as a result of storm damages; subsidize the development of resilient and affordable housing in lower flood risk areas; and buy out residential properties located in flood-prone areas.
- An additional $1 million is proposed to provide supportive services such as housing counseling and legal aid to renters and homeowners impacted by Hurricane Ida.
- $58 million to infrastructure programs that help impacted communities become more resilient to current and future natural hazards, protect publicly funded recovery investments in impacted communities, and fund the non-federal cost share for state and local facilities eligible under FEMA’s Public Assistance program.
- $6 million to planning programs that develop a Statewide Housing Mitigation Strategy Tool to assess the housing stock in disaster-impacted and at-risk areas and that build on the existing efforts of Resilient NJ, a climate resilience planning, guidance, and technical assistance program set up following Superstorm Sandy to support local and regional climate resilience planning.
Hearings on the plan will be held Sept. 8 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Manville High School and Sept. 12 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the New Jersey Institute of Technology's Campus Center Ballroom in Newark.
The recovery money spent so far includes:
- Federal Emergency Management Agency household and individual assistance: More than $250 million
- Small Business Administration disaster loans: More than $250 million
- FEMA Public Assistance through New Jersey Office of Emergency Management to state and local governments: More than $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. Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-Ringoes, tied the damage from Ida – and Floyd, Irene and Sandy before it, as significant tropical-storm impacts since 1999 – as evidence the state needs to fortify and mitigate against the impacts of climate change.
“As a country and as a global community, we’ve got to do something about weather that is killing us,” Malinowski said. “We have to do something about the underlying causes of these extreme, increasingly extreme storms that are affecting every part of this country.
“There’s 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 departments becoming a navy and rescuing people in boats from their homes, far away from any coastline.”
Despite forecasts for above-average hurricane activity this year in the Atlantic Ocean, the month of September began without a hurricane yet recorded. A storm did reach tropical storm status Thursday, named Danielle, and could become a hurricane though is already in the northern Atlantic, far from land.
Still, Federal Emergency Management Agency regional administrator David Warrington urged people to be prepared.
“We’ve been lucky thus far, but we are just in prime time, September, October for the East Coast to be vulnerable,” Warrington said. “With that, as we learned last year, even the minor storms, the storms that we necessarily don’t think will be impactful, turned out to be tremendously devastating to infrastructure, communities and individuals.”
Murphy also announced the launch of disasterhelp.nj.gov, a new website on which people, businesses and local governments can navigate federal and state recovery resources available in the aftermath of a storm.