TRENTON – Towns trying to cope with the wave of rebuilding applications due to last year’s Superstorm Sandy will receive help in the form of $3 million in federal grants.
The money, announced by the Christie administration, will allow municipalities to hire more staff and rent larger spaces for zoning offices to assist home and business owners.
“These grants will help towns ease any backlog of applications or prevent it altogether by covering the cost of extra zoning officers and support staff,” said New Jersey Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Richard E. Constable III in a release.
The announcement of the aid comes two days after the latest Sandy recovery hearing held by joint environment committees of the Legislature, at which lawmakers heard for the third time from residents who are at their wits’ end coping with insurance companies, with local, state and federal agencies, and with regulations they find confusing and contradictory.
Residents and business owners have told legislators stories of still being out of their homes nearly one year after the storm struck New Jersey. They testified about the labyrinth of red tape and undertrained personnel they have had to deal with for months on end, testimony that has prompted some individual lawmakers to pledge personal assistance.
The grants are funded through Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery monies provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and are for the nine counties most affected by Sandy: Atlantic, Bergen, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean and Union.
The administration stated that in order to be eligible for a grant award, municipalities must establish their zoning office has seen an increase in applications of at least 10 percent exclusively because of Sandy, or the towns have reduced the property assessments of 100 homes or more since the storm.
Municipalities can use the funds to hire technical and administrative support staff, procure staff from private firms on an as-needed basis, and secure additional office space.