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Monday, September 15, 2014

President's task force releases post-Sandy rebuilding recommendations
(Page 2 of 3)

President Barack Obama created the task force in December. Its chairman, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan, said in a statement that the group focused on finding ways to cut red tape in the delivery of disaster aid and “piloting innovative strategies that can serve as a model for communities across the nation as they prepare for the impacts of climate change.”

In its report, the task force didn’t delve deeply into what types of infrastructure might be best suited to protect the shoreline. It endorsed a greater use of natural barriers like wetlands and sand dunes, but said better tools were needed to help planners evaluate what works and quantify the long-term cost benefits of those types of green projects. It also said those projects should be planned regionally if they are to have their greatest effect.

A large section of the report dealt with how federal authorities should respond once a storm has struck.

Among the recommendations:

-- Federal agencies should streamline their review processes for reconstruction projects related to Sandy. It said that if standard government permitting timelines are applied, some rebuilding projects might have to undergo redundant reviews by multiple agencies and could be held up as long as four years. Some of those reviews will be consolidated to save time and money, the task force said.

-- The Small Business Administration’s disaster loan program, which gave $3.8 billion in low-interest loans to storm victims, performed better than it did during Hurricane Katrina but should be tweaked further. Training programs for loan officers should be improved. Eligibility for some loans should be loosened slightly. Approvals should happen faster for people who meet credit requirements. A separate application track should be established for small businesses, which often need money fast to survive but wind up languishing in long queues behind huge numbers of homeowners.

-- Federal mortgage policies should be revised so homeowners can get insurance checks faster. After Sandy, many homeowners complained that mortgage banks delayed delivering their insurance payments because of bureaucratic issues.

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