(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 passed the Assembly Thursday by a vote of45-21.
The legislation, entitled the “Disaster Victims Protection Act” (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.
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.
The multimedia package consists of Mazzeo and Andrzejczak discussing the legislation and audio and a transcript of same.
The audio file is available upon request.
A transcript of the members’ commentary is appended to the end of this release.
“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 now heads to the Senate for further consideration.
Assemblyman Vincent Mazzeo (D-Atlantic):
“Superstorm Sandy was a devastating storm that caused catastrophic damage all throughout New Jersey.
“In my own district, in Ventnor and Brigantine, people are still out of their homes, and now we’re two years after Superstorm Sandy and they’re still waiting to get grant money. Now, some of this grant money went to other parts of the state that didn’t really have that much damage.”
Assemblyman Robert Andrzejczak (D-Cape May), Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee Chair:
“It’s really frustrating when you have parts of the state that were not necessarily hit as hard as we were and yet are still on that list, as far as receiving federal and state aid. In Cumberland County, specifically, we have multiple communities along the bayshore that are devastated. We have constituents who are still not in their homes two years later who are potentially going to be losing their homes because on top of their mortgage for their destroyed home, they’re also paying rent on top of that. So it is a big issue for us here in South Jersey.
“What this bill is doing is requiring the governor to set aside money and state and federal aid for these communities that were overlooked and allowing them to rebuild.”
“It gives us a template going forward that when money is given, and hopefully we won’t see a storm like this again, but if something like this happens again, that the money will get to the right places and the relief will come quicker and these people can get back in their homes.”