EDA hopes to have CDBG approval for Sandy recovery funds by end of month

TRENTON – The Economic Development Authority hopes to receive approval from the federal government by the end of the month – next Tuesday – of its action plan to use federal grants to help businesses get back on their feet in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

“We’re hoping it will come in short order,’’ EDA Executive Director Michele Brown told Assembly Budget Committee lawmakers Tuesday. “We are acutely aware the summer is coming.”

Under the Action Plan, the EDA will administer $500 million of Community Development Block Grant monies to support the recovery of storm-impacted businesses and communities, Brown told lawmakers.

The program will provide grants of up to $50,000 to small businesses damaged by the storm last year. Funds could be used to cover costs related to rehabilitation, equipment, inventory, mitigation or working capital, she told the legislators.

On a related note, Brown told lawmakers they hope to have a federally funded tourism campaign to make people aware the Shore is open for business on the air by mid-May, and definitely before Memorial Day.

In response to questions, Brown explained that the CDBG funds must be separate from the state Tourism division. “We have to account for every single CDBG dollar,’’ she said.

The Sandy-related marketing money is specific to post-Sandy recovery efforts, while the state Tourism division has a larger mission, Brown said.

Brown said that EDA is working with the Tourism division to ensure the campaigns “mesh,” and that they are not stepping on each other’s feet.

On other issues

Regarding the so-called “prepackaged” bankruptcy protection filing of the Revel casino in Atlantic City, Brown assured lawmakers that the troubled enterprise will emerge stronger.

She said that loan exposure will be reduced for Revel creditors, there will be more equity put in, and the state’s exposure, which is 3 percent, will remain low-level.

Regarding the American Dream development at the Meadowlands, Brown said it has not finalized its application with the state yet, nor has the Sports and Exposition Authority completed work it must do.

Concerning three projects under the Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit act – two in Jersey City and one in New Brunswick – Brown told lawmakers she expects they will have shovels in the ground this year.

The projects are supposed to create more than 1,600 construction jobs, stimulate over $625 million in private investment, and generate over a combined 1,200,000 square feet of academic, commercial and residential space.

EDA hopes to have CDBG approval for Sandy recovery funds by end of month