TOMS RIVER – Nineteen Jersey Shore towns and school districts devastated by Superstorm Sandy nearly nine years ago have received welcome news: They no longer have to repay about $ 26 million in federal catastrophe loans.
US MPs Frank Pallone Jr. and Andy Kim, both DN.J., announced disaster loan relief at a press conference Tuesday at Toms River City Hall. Pallone and Kim, along with other members of the New Jersey congressional delegation, tried to get the disaster loans granted for years.
Lawmakers argued that it was unfair to expect cities that have lost a large percentage of their tax base to repay the money, saying it would be an unfair one to taxpayers already struggling in the wake of the storm Burden the burden.
The low-interest loans were granted through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Cities and school districts received it in 2013, within months of October 29, 2012, when Sandy struck. The money was used for things like removing rubble or providing basic services in areas badly damaged by the storm.
Toms River, where more than 10,000 Sandy properties were either damaged or destroyed, still owes nearly $ 3 million plus $ 7,672 in interest. for a $ 5 million loan, the community received about six months after Sandy. This money no longer has to be paid back.
Mayor Maurice B. “Mo” Hill Jr. said much of the disaster loan was used to clean up piles of debris after the storm. Toms River lost more than $ 2 billion in rates when Sandy roared ashore.
“We have suffered a loss of our assessable base,” said Hill. “If we had to repay all of this, it would be a burden for the taxpayer.” Hill noted that the community has already repaid approximately $ 2 million of the loan monies, which he believes represents a nearly 2 cents increase in the community tax rate. In the video above, Hill talks about the aftermath of Sandy and the relief of not having to repay the loan.
In Monmouth County
Keansburg Alderman James Cocuzza Sr. said he was grateful that his small borough on the bay did not have to repay more than $ 1.8 million in disaster loans plus an additional $ 93,979 in interest. He said that every $ 65,000 increase in the community budget results in a 1 cent increase in community taxes.
“We’re a one-square-mile city,” said Cocuzza, noting that Keansburg lost more than 400 homes when Sandy’s storm surge hit the city. “If we had to pay back $ 1.8 million, we’d be dead. We’re still building houses in the city.”
Pallone noted that the federal government has not forced cities and counties in other hurricane-hit areas, including Louisiana, to repay funds normally used for emergency cleanup and to fund vital city services after storms.
‘It’s just not fair’
“It’s just not fair.” Pallone said he tried to force cities to repay the money. He said communities had been led to believe that the money was and would likely be given out as a grant rather than a loan. “These loans were made in Louisiana and all other states. … We paid for them, we send more money to Washington than to any other state. … We are one country.”
Kim said he felt “really encouraged” by canceling the disaster loan, noting that it was a bipartisan effort.
Earlier this year, each member of the New Jersey delegation signed a Pallone-authored letter calling on the federal government to waive the recovery of the remaining catastrophe loan funds and to refrain from repaying funds from Sandy families that were donated to the state-funded Participated in New Jersey home building programs.
“I hope this gives you encouragement that we can keep that dynamic and try to achieve the kind of justice, fairness … for our homeowners,” said Kim.
U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, RN.J., did not attend the press conference but made a statement stating that he had voted for the stopgap solution, which included the loan waiver as well as funding for communities that were struggling Have to recover from the floods caused by this summer’s tropical summer Storm Ida.
“Community disaster loan forgiveness provides vital relief to our cities and recognizes the ongoing stress on our communities as we work to fully recover,” Smith said in a statement.
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The bill signed by President Joe Biden last week provides funds to repay the remaining amounts of disaster loans taken out by cities and school authorities. Some municipalities and school districts have already repaid the loan amounts in whole or in part.
Highlands Mayor Carolyn Broullon said in a statement that her little district will continue to recover as Sandy approaches the ninth anniversary. Highlands will have to repay no more than $ 2.6 million in loan capital and over $ 260,000 in interest.
“The millions of dollars in community disaster loans is an important step in getting Sandy behind us,” said Broullon.
“We’re still fighting”
The New Jersey Organizing Project, an advocacy group for Sandy, has long supported the New Jersey delegation for disaster loan granting as an aid in renouncing reparations – or “clawbacks” – Federal funding used by homeowners to rebuild and upgrade their properties.
“We are still fighting almost nine years later,” said Joe Mangino of Stafford, president of the board of directors of the organizing project. Mangino, who still has a lien on his home because he was told he must repay about $ 4,000 in disaster funds, praised Pallone and Kim for their success in stopping repayment of disaster loans.
He said he hoped individual homeowners could get good news about clawbacks soon too. Mangino said he feared Ida victims could soon experience similar problems with what he called a “broken disaster system”.
“I can’t thank you enough for not forgetting us,” said Mangino.
Here are the loan amounts – and interest – cities in Monmouth and Ocean Counties and Ventnor City in Atlantic Counties no longer have to pay back. The numbers are from the State Department of Community Affairs:
- Atlantic Highlands, $ 413,350 principal, $ 5,094 interest;
- Avon, $ 1,428,189, $ 143,627;
- Beach Docks, $ 1,902,919, $ 183,023;
- Berkeley, $ 665,743, $ 2,779;
- Central Regional Education Authority, $ 408,594, $ 1,088;
- Highlands, $ 2,625,357, $ 262,255;
- Little Egg Harbor, $ 4,416,610, $ 196,469;
- Keansburg, $ 1,815,347, $ 93,979;
- Manasquan, $ 921,401, $ 2,664;
- Manasquan Education Committee, $ 332,311, $ 599;
- Ocean Gate, $ 13,481, $ 77;
- Point pleasant, $ 3,531,935; $ 323,968;
- Point Pleasant Beach, $ 800,128, $ 25,468;
- Seaside Park Board of Education, $ 143,799, $ 500;
- Stafford, $ 1,701,242, $ 11,940;
- Toms River, $ 2,994,642; $ 7,672;
- Tuckerton, $ 41,393, $ 258
- Union Beach, $ 493,560, $ 7,487;
- Ventnor City, $ 1,251,598, $ 11,769.
Covering Toms River and several other cities in Ocean County, Jean Mikle has been writing about Jersey Shore local government and politics for nearly 37 years. She also has a passion for the historic Shore music scene. Contact her: @jeanmikle, [email protected]