The state wants to transfer $6.1 million from other programs into housing counseling and rental assistance for people still struggling in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs announced Friday that its Sandy Recovery Division wants to reallocate other Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD.
“It’s great they are shifting funds to housing counseling and rental assistance,” said Amanda Devecka-Rinear, of the nonprofit New Jersey Organizing Project. “But we would like to see legal assistance funded for people still struggling with contractor fraud.”
And she said there is great need for a “cross the finish line fund,” for additional funding for people who can’t figure out any other way to get home.
By her calculations, millions more in unspent funds also could be reallocated.
According to the DCA, as of March 31, Sandy programs have rebuilt 6,057 homes, served 5,545 rental households, and built 2,732 affordable housing units.
But the New Jersey Organizing Project said about 40,000 homes were substantially damaged by Sandy, so thousands of families have had to handle expenses on their own.
Under the proposal, the DCA would transfer $3.1 million to the Sandy Recovery Housing Counseling Program from a different rental assistance program that is about to end. The counseling program provides help with foreclosure prevention, debt management and rental guidance.
About 8,200 Sandy-affected households have received counseling services through the program, according to the DCA.
The DCA also would shift $3 million from surplus of the Lead Hazard Risk Reduction Program to the Rental Assistance Program, or RAP, for homeowners displaced while rebuilding Sandy-damaged homes through RREM and LIM.
The lead reduction program has served all applicants and is closing, according to the DCA.
The $3 million would be added to $12.5 million the DCA has already allocated to the program, which provides rental assistance payments of as much as $1,300 per month for as many as 21 months.
The need for Sandy-related rental assistance is diminishing, but the $3 million is needed to meet the needs of existing applicants through June 2019, according to DCA documents.
To date, about 2,400 homeowners have received assistance through RAP, the DCA said.
The DCA also wants to reallocate $4.3 million in surpluses from 14 disaster recovery programs to pay for program administration.
None of the proposed reallocations would affect funding commitments to any individual or business, the DCA said.
A public comment period on the proposal closes at 5 p.m. Aug. 7. The public hearing is set for 4 to 6 p.m. July 31 at the Toms River Municipal Complex, 33 Washington St., Toms River.
Individuals may comment at the public hearing, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or by mail to Lisa Ryan, Sandy Recovery Division, NJ Department of Community Affairs, 101 South Broad Street, P.O. Box 823, Trenton, NJ 08625.