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Mazzeo Introduces Bill to Ensure Hardest Hit Victims Get Much-Needed Disaster Aid Quickly in Wake of Hurricane Sandy Lessons

Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo has introduced legislation known as the “Disaster Victims Protection Act,” which would require the state to allocate federal and state disaster aid to municipalities in proportion to the amount of catastrophic physical damage sustained within each municipality.

“Disaster Aid should never be a political football. Our families and businesses deserve better. Hurricane Sandy certainly taught us a lot, including the need to make sure precious financial resources get to where they’re needed most, first,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “This bill ensures that the methodology the state uses to allocate aid prioritizes the needs of residential victims and business owners before any money is expended on other economic development or redevelopment projects, particularly in the most heavily damaged areas.”

Specifically, the bill (A-3666) would require 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.

Mazzeo noted that, in response to the unprecedented damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, New Jersey received billions of federal dollars from Congress in the form of Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds to support the state’s rebuilding and reconstruction efforts.

With approval from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Governor allocated millions of dollars to housing development projects within the nine most-impacted counties, as designated by HUD, which include Atlantic, Bergen, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, and Union counties.

“Some municipalities within these counties were completely devastated, while others suffered far less, if any, major damage at all,” added Mazzeo. “And yet, some of the least-damaged municipalities received disproportionately greater funding from the state for development projects, leaving other residents and businesses in more devastated municipalities at a fiscal disadvantage for reconstruction.”

This bill is intended to ensure that residents and businesses most impacted by a disaster will receive a level of disaster relief aid commensurate with the amount of damage sustained within the municipality.

Fundamental principles of fairness and equity require that the residents and businesses in those municipalities that are the hardest hit and suffer the most physical damage from a natural or other disaster should receive the most relief,” concluded Mazzeo

The bill has been referred to the Assembly State and Local Government Committee.