Eighteen months after Hurricane Sandy hit, state representatives say they are still fighting to hold on to the federal aid money they thought they had secured more than a year ago.
Sen. Charles Schumer announced this week that he is categorically opposed to the diversion of federal Sandy aid funds to other recent disasters, as proposed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, while there remains billions of dollars’ worth of damage in New York and New Jersey.
In a joint statement with Sen. Robert Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, Schumer said that HUD has considered a potential national resiliency competition that would use up to $2 billion of the remaining $3.5 billion of Community Development Block Grant funding from the federal Disaster Relief Appropriations Act to fund projects in other states recently affected by natural disasters. The senators said they were concerned that others in Congress would support the competition, since 48 states could qualify for funds.
Schumer and Menendez said that New York and New Jersey, the states hit hardest by Sandy, should be HUD’s first priority, as the relief bill has always intended. They pledged to ensure that Sandy aid does not go elsewhere until the needs of New York City, New York state and New Jersey are met.
“It’s outrageous that we are even discussing a potential plan to redirect Sandy relief dollars to states across the country while homeowners in New York and New Jersey are still waiting on much-needed relief,” said Schumer. “We all know that Sandy victims are still getting back on their feet and making repairs to their homes, and I will fight for them to be the number one priority for remaining housing aid, as has always been intended, before a single dollar is put up for grabs in a national resiliency competition.”
A HUD spokesman said that while it is acceptable under the law for the money to be distributed to non-Sandy disaster areas, no decision has been made on how to allocate the remaining CDBG funds.