Congress passes Sandy recovery bill, includes funding for critical HUD program

Aerial photos of New Jersey coastline in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Photo by DVIDSHUB via Flickr.

Three months after Superstorm Sandy crippled coastal communities along the East Coast, Congress passed a $50.5 billion package on Monday to aid victims of the storm and accelerate rebuilding efforts.

The largest portion of the spending bill includes $16 billion for the Housing and Urban Development Department’s Community Development Block Grants program (CDBG). Of that, about $12.1 billion will be shared among communities directly affected by Sandy as well as those from other federally declared disasters in 2011-2013.

CDBG is a flexible program that provides communities with annual grants and resources to address a wide range of community development needs, including disaster recovery, neighborhood stabilization, brownfield redevelopment, loan guarantees and more. The CDBG program is intended to ensure decent affordable housing, provide services for lower-income Americans and to foster job creation through the expansion and retention of business.

Including these CDBG funds in the recovery bill will help local governments tailor the support toward projects that will impact their communities the most by requiring citizen engagement and participation with each grant. Congress’ decision to dedicated such a significant portion of the recovery bill to CDBG re-enforces the programs’ importance in building more equitable, economically resilient and cities and towns.

Towns in New Jersey as still figuring out how to rebuild, and Smart Growth America’s partner New Jersey Future is working to make sure this rebuilding is as beneficial as possible.

“The recovery bill’s CDBG funds in particular will provide much-needed local resources for rebuilding,” said Chris Strum, the organization’s Senior Director of State Policy. “New Jersey Future looks forward to working with communities to ensure that the money is used to enhance resilience in the face of future storms and to help keep communities affordable.”

New Jersey Future held a half-day conference in December about rebuilding a resilient New Jersey shore. Passage of this recovery bill will go far to helping achieve this goal.

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