Bending to public feedback, the Bloomberg administration announced Tuesday it is considering to alter its plan to use federal Hurricane Sandy aid money to fund reconstruction of homes to include reimbursements for work already done.
The city has received $1.77 billion in federal disaster relief aid from the federal government through the Community Development Block Grant program. According to the mayor’s proposal, homeowners who have not yet started repair work may qualify for the grant, as long as it does not duplicate funding a homeowner received from the Federal Emergency Management Service, Small Business Administration or insurance.
However, those who paid out of pocket for their own repairs were not to be reimbursed under the program. Gov. Cuomo’s plan, which covers storm victims outside the city — such as those on Long Island or in the Hudson Valley — includes those reimbursements, as does a similar plan instituted by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in his state.
The mayor’s proposal included a two-week feedback period during which the city received dozens of comments asking the mayor to include reimbursements in the plan. The administration officials had previously said it was leaving out those who already did work because it wanted to focus on people who were holding off on repairs because they could not afford the costs and it was concerned about the possibility of fraud.
According to the change, the city will consider paying for work already done for “qualifying homeowners” who own one- to four-family homes. The administration did not go into further detail on who would qualify, citing the need for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to approve the plan first.
The move comes just days after two elected officials from the Rockaways pushed for the change.
Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D- Rockaway Beach) and Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of HUD Shaun Donovan — the Obama administration’s point person for Sandy recovery — urging him to reimburse storm victims and cover the cost of repairs related to storm damage that have already been completed and urging the city to do the same.
“The mayor should not punish responsible homeowners who utilized their savings to make repairs in effort to get back into their storm-damaged homes,” said Goldfeder.
“We take action when our homes are destroyed and we have no place to live,” Richards added. “No one wants to sit around for months hoping that eventually someone else will solve their problems, not when everything that they have worked their entire lives for has been destroyed.”
The city said it hopes to have the plan in place by late spring.