Dems’ bill would aid flood-damaged homes, businesses

TRENTON – Three N.J. Democrats said today they will introduce legislation to help low- and moderate-income homeowners and businesses offset the costs of flood-related property damage.

Assembly members Wayne P. DeAngelo and Dan Benson, both 14th District, and Connie Wagner of the 38th District said in a release that the proposal would create 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 sufficiently covered by FEMA assistance.

Under the program, municipalities would be permitted to utilize up to 15 percent of their revenues generated by affordable housing development fees and deposited in such municipal trust funds.

Grants of up to $10,000 for local residential property owners or up to $15,000 for non-residential local property owners would be provided for damages caused by a flood, hurricane or other natural disaster for which there was a declared state of emergency.

“This is about maximizing our resources to the fullest to help those in need,” Wagner said. “Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee brought a double whammy on our state that many are still trying to recover from. These grants can go a long way in helping many families get back on their feet.”

The legislation was drafted in response to concerns raised by Monroe Township local officials about the financial struggle many residents are still facing following the devastating flooding from Hurricane Irene last month, the legislators said. Nearly 200 homes in Monroe were significantly damaged by flooding associated with the hurricane.

“Many residents are still unable to return to their homes one month after the hurricane and severe flooding because repairs are just too costly and the damage too great,” said DeAngelo.

The upper chamber version of the bill will be introduced by Sens. Linda Greenstein, (D-14), Plainsboro, and Bob Gordon, (D-38), Fair Lawn.

The bill would establish the 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 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.”

Dems’ bill would aid flood-damaged homes, businesses