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Were Hoboken and Other New Jersey Towns Shortchanged on Sandy Aid?

Responding to Mayor Zimmer’s claims that Sandy funds were “held hostage,” the governor’s office shot out a series of statements noting that Hoboken has received nearly $70 million in storm recovery and rebuilding aid to date, but as noted earlier, this is different from HMGP money. The $70 million figure includes FEMA aid to individuals, federal flood insurance payouts, SBA loans, and grants to local businesses. Much of this money came directly from the federal government -- without state officials having a say in the matter -- and most of it was aimed at individuals and business owners rather than at Hoboken’s city government.

Even out of the $300 million HMGP pot, two-thirds of the money has been earmarked for individuals rather than local municipalities. Of the six HMGP programs, $100 million is going to help residents elevate their homes, and another $100 million is going to help fund property buyouts. The remainder is split between four grants:

To recap, out of $300 million in total HMGP funds the state of New Jersey had to hand out, just $75 million was available for municipalities like Hoboken, and the demand for this money was great. State officials say they received letters of intent from cities and towns asking for funding for mitigation projects totaling some $14 billion.

With the supply and the demand so out of whack, there were sure to be grumblings from some applicants who felt they were worthy but left out, or who weren’t awarded as much funding as they felt they were entitled to. “If you look at our recovery programs in totality,” said New Jersey’s “Storm Czar” Marc Ferzan on a recent call with reporters, “I’m scratching my head a little bit about any community that’s [claiming they’re] getting the short end of the stick other than to say that I understand we’ve got very limited resources at our disposal to date.”

But the initial findings of NJ Spotlight’s continuing investigation seem to suggest that there may be more to this story than simple dissatisfaction.

The HMGP Energy Allocation Initiative is just a small fraction of overall Sandy aid money, but it’s one of the few given directly by the state to local municipalities. In light of recent allegations from Hoboken, Fort Lee, and other places of the governor rewarding allies and punishing political enemies, it bears a close examination, whether or not that’s what actually happened here. NJ Spotlight has provided the administration with detailed questions, and they say they will respond again in the coming days.

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