(TRENTON) — Legislation Assembly Democrats Vince Mazzeo, Tim Eustace, Bob Andrzejczak and Raj Mukherji sponsored to ensure residents and businesses hit hardest by disaster are priorities for receiving help was released Thursday by an Assembly panel.
The Disaster Victims Protection Act (A-3666) requires the governor to allocate federal and state disaster relief aid to municipalities, including residents and businesses, in proportion to the relative amount of catastrophic physical damage suffered within each affected municipality.
The sponsors said such an aid allocation methodology is intended to ensure that residential victims and business owners in the most heavily damaged areas following a disaster are provided assistance before money is spent on other needs.
“This is all about fairness,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “Residents and businesses are still looking to recover throughout the region, and the problems we saw in New Jersey with aid allocations remain deeply concerning. Some of the relief allocations we saw after Sandy were questionable, especially with so many still trying to rebuild their lives. I want the disaster aid allocation system based purely on common sense and doing what’s right.”
“We still have areas of the state waiting for help more than two years after Sandy,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “That’s unacceptable. We cannot repeat the mistakes of Sandy the next time a disaster strikes.”
“We still need to address the profound needs of the Delaware Bayshore in Cumberland County because it has not received the necessary aide due to the unacceptable fact that it was not one of the designated counties,” said Andrzejczak (D-Cape May/Cumberland/Atlantic). “They’ve had to beg and scrap for every bit of help they have received, and that must be fixed. I never again want to see projects receiving disaster aid substantially disproportionate to the amount of damage suffered, particularly when compared to places that suffered more damage.”
“Principles of fairness and equity suggest that the residents and businesses in the hardest hit municipalities that suffer the most physical damage from a natural or other disaster should receive the most relief,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson).
Under the bill, whenever the governor is given discretion by the federal government to allocate federal Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery funds through the creation of an action plan or other administrative process — or when he has discretion in the allocation of state disaster relief funds — priority consideration in the allocation of funds to and within municipalities shall be given in proportion to the relative amount of physical damaged sustained within each municipality.
The bill was released by the Assembly State and Local Government Committee.