By Karen Frantz
Communities in the Rockaways and other neighborhoods in Queens hard-hit by Hurricane Sandy will soon start to receive the first wave of aid from a congressional storm relief package after the federal government approved the city’s plan to spend nearly $1.8 billion to help New Yorkers rebuild the money.
“We’re going to see that this Sandy relief money starts flowing to homeowners and businesses as soon as possible,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg at a news conference announcing the federal approval of the city’s plan last week.
The Community Development Block Grants, which Congress approved in a $51 billion aid package in January, are more flexible than other sources of recovery funding, such as Federal Emergency Management Administration aid or insurance payments.
Under the city’s plan, $648 million will be spent on housing recovery, $293 million on business recovery and $831 million on infrastructure and resiliency programs.
The money for housing recovery will be used for funding reconstruction of homes and multi-family buildings, making public housing better able to handle storms or other natural disasters and providing rental assistance for up to 24 months for displaced families. Business recovery dollars will be used for providing loans of up to $150,000 and matching grants of up to $60,000 to business owners and funding two competitions for ideas for spurring economic development and developing resilient technologies.
Homeowners and business owners who apply for loans or grants will be assigned a specialist or account manager to help guide them through the process.
“We’re not going to leave you out there with a bunch of forms, we’re going to give you a real human being that can guide you through a process,” Bloomberg said.
Bloomberg said he will announce in the coming weeks when and how people can register to receive housing grants, loans and rental assistance. Business owners seeking loans and grants may begin applying May 20.
“The money is very close to being ready to go out the door,” Bloomberg said.
The city will also use the federal money to repair infrastructure damaged in the storm and invest in making the city more resistants to future floods and the impacts of climate change.
Bloomberg was joined at the news conference by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) and others.
Meeks said the Rockaways was devastated by Sandy.
“Superstorm Sandy spared not one individual,” he said. “Not one.”
He applauded the New York delegation to Congress, which is made up of Republicans and Democrats, coming together to push for passage of the federal aid package.
“The Rockaways will be back, it will be strong, it will be better than ever and it’s because of people working together,” he said.
Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.