Home Economic Development Federal Sandy aid inches closer to disbursement

Federal Sandy aid inches closer to disbursement

Connecticut homeowners should be able to apply for the first round of federal Hurricane Sandy relief grants in June to repair storm damage and “storm-proof” their homes.

The Connecticut General Assembly recently approved a plan to distribute $72 million the state will receive from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as part of the first of three rounds of storm-related community development grants.

The plan must next be approved by HUD itself. If all goes according to schedule, residents will likely start to see federal checks for storm repairs and related work as early as mid-summer, Connecticut officials said.

“We’re right on schedule for what we need to be doing,” said Evonne Klein, commissioner of the state’s Department of Housing. “With this first tranche of money, we’re trying to make it go as far as it can.”

Following Hurricane Sandy, Congress approved $60 billion in disaster aid to help Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and other Northeast states rebuild their communities.

The first round of funding — totaling $16 billion — is being administered through the Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery program by HUD.

Of the $72 million slated for Connecticut in this round, roughly $30 million will go single-family homes, and $26 million will go to multifamily housing, including public housing. The remaining funds will be split between economic revitalization, repairs for infrastructure and public facilities and administrative and planning costs.

“Our priority is to get people back in their homes, that’s our priority,” said Klein, whose department will supervise the distribution of community block grant funds. “We want to reach out to as many individuals and families as possible to get them back into their homes.”

Roughly 80 percent of the funding will go to homes in New Haven and Fairfield counties and at least half must be spent in low- to moderate-income communities.

The funds are designed to cover needs that were not addressed by individuals’ or businesses’ insurance policies or by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The assistance will go to both home repairs and flood mitigation improvements, such as elevating a house or installing storm shutters. Subsequent funding rounds in the upcoming months and years are expected to help with infrastructure and other flood mitigation tactics.

David Kooris, director of the Bridgeport Office of Planning and Economic Development, said he welcomes the needed funding but would like to see the state dedicate a higher proportion of the funds to low-income areas and multifamily housing.

Kooris said the allotted funding covers 70 percent of what is needed for single-family homes but just 20 percent of what is needed for multifamily residences.

“For residents of public housing, where units are boarded up because of flood damage, the funding can’t come soon enough,” Kooris said.

However, Klein responded, there are additional sources of funding available to multifamily housing complexes, such as various tax credits, that the state is hoping to leverage to cover repair costs.

Bridgeport’s Marina Village public housing project was the state’s largest area of concentrated poverty to be damaged by the storm, Kooris said.

The city plans to apply for the block grant funding to demolish a small section of the development and relocate it out of the flood plain and into a mix-income community. However, it will be competing with the rest of the state for the $26 million.

“I think we have a very good and competitive case to make,” Kooris said. “We have a significant amount of public housing that was damaged by Sandy and we have the land and opportunity to replace those units. We’re in a perfect position to utilize that money.”

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Jennifer Bissell was a reporter for both the Fairfield and Westchester business journals from 2012-2014. She attended the University of Minnesota and contributed to several regional publications including the St. Paul Pioneer Press, St. Cloud Times and Twin Cities Business magazine.

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