Legislation Assembly Democrats Vince Mazzeo, Tim Eustace, Bob Andrzejczak, Raj Mukherji, Annette Quijano and Benjie Wimberly sponsored to ensure residents and businesses hit hardest by disaster are priorities for receiving help cleared the Assembly on Thursday.
The Disaster Victims Protection Act (A-454) 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 bill is part of efforts by Assembly Democrats to rebuild New Jersey’s middle-class.
“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 three 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 aid 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 the governor 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.
“It’s perfectly reasonable and only right that areas that incurred more damage receive more assistance,” said Quijano (D-Union). “This legislation will help ensure that communities can rebuild as quickly and completely as possible after a disaster.”
“Municipalities within the counties that received block grants after Sandy varied in terms of how much they needed to rebuild, with some communities facing no damage and others facing complete devastation,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). “The legislation will ensure that aid is allocated in a way that helps the hardest hit homeowners and business owners recover after a natural disaster.”
The bill was approved 54-19.