Coalition wants Sandy block grant plan revised

TRENTON – A coalition of religious, political and civil rights advocates have sent a letter asking the state to revise its proposed Sandy recovery fund spending plan to better represent the needs of minorities and low-income residents.

“The plan the administration put out is not fair,” said James Harris, president of the N.J. State Conference of the NAACP, in a release. 

“It fails to meet the needs of renters, who happen to be disproportionately black and Latino.  It does not do enough to protect civil rights.  We need this money to get out the door soon and can’t afford the state submitting a plan that will be delayed because it is flawed.”

The state has a proposal for spending approximately $1.8 billion in federal Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funding.

The coalition of some 76 groups and advocates wants the state to amend the plan before submitting it the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“The DCA plan lays a good foundation, but our members helping folks get back on their feet see where enhancements can be made,” said Staci Berger, director of Policy and Advocacy for the Housing and Community Development Network.

“It needs specifics about how programs will be delivered so that precious funding dollars are spent efficiently and effectively for all. Bruce Springsteen said, ‘At the end of every hard earned day people find some reason to believe.’ Everyone affected by the storm, homeowners and renters alike, believe they should have an equal opportunity at rebuilding and they deserve it.”

The group called on the Department of Communitiy Affairs to identify a uniform program design, as well as a network of organizations able to assist.

The state has said that among other things, the plan is to meet needs not met by private insurance or the Federal Emergency Management Agency; the administration has said it would dedicate more than 50 percent to low- and moderate-income households in accordance with HUD guidelines.

Eighty percent of the funds will be dedicated to the nine most heavily impacted counties in the state: Atlantic, Bergen, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean and Union.

Coalition wants Sandy block grant plan revised