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New Jersey Reaches Deal on Hurricane Sandy Aid

NY Times, May 30, 2014


New Jersey has agreed to spend more federal disaster money to provide housing to people displaced by Hurricane Sandy and to make sure that the hardest-hit parts of the state get a proportional share of the money, according to a settlement reached on Friday.

The state also agreed to reconsider all of the applications for reconstruction aid that were rejected, after a review found that more than three-fourths of them should have been approved. The agreement stemmed from complaints by civil rights groups filed last year with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“We have one more chance to get this right, and I am hopeful that this agreement will help the state do a better job,” said Frank Argote-Freyre, president of the Latino Action Network, one of the groups that filed the original complaint.

The Latino Action Network and the Fair Share Housing Center argued that minorities affected by the storm had not been treated fairly. The New Jersey chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. later joined in the complaint.

The agreement came after New Jersey learned that it would receive about $880 million in the third round of federal disaster-relief funding. The state has spent about $1 billion of the $4.2 billion promised to it.

In the settlement, the state agreed to spend an additional $215 million to provide replacement housing, on top of the $379 million it had already allocated for that purpose. Critics of the state’s handling of the federal aid, including the groups that filed the complaint, questioned why so much money was going to inland counties when so many people remained displaced in the counties along the Jersey Shore that suffered the brunt of the damage.

The settlement calls for more than half of the housing aid to be spent in Monmouth and Ocean Counties and an additional 20 percent to go to Atlantic County. It also would create a pool of $15 million to help renters, particularly those of low and moderate incomes, whose homes were damaged or destroyed.

“To the greatest extent feasible, households wishing to return to their pre-Sandy community with this assistance shall be supported and funded to do so,” the agreement says.

Adam Gordon, a lawyer with the Fair Share Housing Center who represented the groups, said the settlement “looks at a pretty wide swath of issues that really were impacting a lot of people of all races and all backgrounds.”

“I don’t expect this is going to fix all the problems,” Mr. Gordon continued, “but it addresses many of them.”

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