While New Jersey is in the middle of battling the coronavirus pandemic, federal lawmakers continue to look to help those attempting to recover from Superstorm Sandy.
Sen. Bob Menendez, chair of the Sandy Task Force, proposed legislation May 8 to forgive debt owed to the federal government by municipalities and homeowners recovering from the 2012 storm to help provide relief to cash-strapped towns and residents coping with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reps. Andy Kim and Frank Pallone, Jr. are introducing companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
“With expenses soaring to combat COVID-19 and revenues drying up due to the necessary emergency shutdown orders, communities need to prioritize their limited resources to keep their residents safe and maintain essential services,” said Menendez.
The Security After Sandy Act would forgive all Community Disaster Loans from Jan. 1, 2016 to Jan. 1, 2020. The loan program supports local governments with significant tax and other major revenue losses after major disasters.
While the program provided critical emergency support for many communities after Sandy, the lawmakers note loan recipients are being asked to pay back those loans at a time when localities are projecting extraordinarily steep revenue declines due to constricted economic activity as a result of COVID-19.
For homeowners, the bill would help those forced to pay back aid disbursed in the aftermath of Sandy by stopping any further recoupment efforts by the federal government in relation to declared disasters between 2006 and 2020.
These clawbacks efforts have blindsided New Jersey residents who applied for loans and benefits offered by various federal programs without clear guidance on repayment terms and contingencies.
“The least the federal government can do at this trying time is to alleviate this unnecessary burden to returning life back to normal,” stated Menendez.
The proposed legislation was unveiled two days after Reps. Bill Pascrell and Josh Gottheimer secured a $1.3 million federal grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to the Bergen County Utilities Authority.
“While our state fights this pandemic, New Jerseyans have never forgotten the devastation from Sandy,” said Rep. Pascrell. “This award will help Bergen County continue the still-going work of making itself whole again.”
“While we are now in the eye of the Coronavirus storm…we need every form of relief we can get,” said Rep. Gottheimer. “I am proud that we’re continuing to boost the Fifth District’s return on investment by clawing back more necessary resources to reimburse damages to our infrastructure caused by Sandy.”
“This investment will help North Jersey families, help town budgets, and help minimize the impact on our local property taxes.”