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Over Seventy Groups Sign Letter Urging State to Improve Sandy Action Plan

Posted by Laura Denker on March 20th 2013

Call on DCA to Take More Balanced Approach on Distribution of Federal Funds

A group of 76 signatories, including religious, civil rights, and community leaders, have called on New Jersey to change its plan for spending $1.8 billion in federal Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funding. The diverse group urged the state to amend the plan prior to submitting it to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for review.

The requests made by the group include fairly analyzing housing needs and addressing the historic pattern of exclusion of lower-income families and persons of color from impacted communities. The letter, submitted to the Department of Community Affairs (DCA), expresses concern that the relief plan is based on a flawed analysis of data related to who was impacted by the storm. It also stated that the draft plan “needs to be revised to make it clear that racial and economic diversity should be a part of rebuilding in all communities.” The group also urged the state to focus more on the needs of people with special needs and the homeless and to emphasize sustainability in the rebuilding process.

“The plan the administration put out is not fair,” said James Harris, President of the NJ State Conference of the NAACP. “It fails to meet the needs of renters, who happen to be disproportionately Black and Latino. It does not do enough to protect civil rights. We need this money to get out the door soon and can’t afford the state submitting a plan that will be delayed because it is flawed.”

“Working families who were renting and people who are unemployed are really struggling,” said Reverend Collins A. Days, Sr. of Second Baptist Church in Atlantic City. “We need to make sure they get help. Most of the programs are ‘first come, first served,’ which means that the people who are first in line because they don’t have to go to work will get priority, not those with the greatest needs.”

“The DCA plan lays a good foundation, but our members helping folks get back on their feet see where enhancements can be made,” said Staci Berger, director of Policy and Advocacy for the Network. “It needs specifics about how programs will be delivered so that precious funding dollars are spent efficiently and effectively for all. Bruce Springsteen said, ‘At the end of every hard earned day people find some reason to believe.’ Everyone affected by the storm, homeowners and renters alike, believe they should have an equal opportunity at rebuilding and they deserve it.”

The group calls on DCA to identify a uniform program design, as well as a network of organizations able to assist. Turning existing, on-the-ground capacity into a connected, effective delivery system would be quicker and more cost effective than building new mechanisms within state government for this purpose.

The group of clergy, civil rights leaders, and housing and planning advocates urged the state government to ensure there is transparency, an opportunity for public participation, and an expeditious use of funds to help those with the greatest needs.

The letter sent by the group of 76 signatories is available here Letters submitted by Fair Share Housing Center and the Housing and Community Development Network of NJ are available here and here.