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Mayor: Means Testing Sandy Rebuilding Aid Is a Mistake

Income limits could potentially lock out many Brick storm survivors

Directing the bulk of aid for residents to raise or rehabilitate their homes to come into compliance with FEMA flood maps toward lower and moderate income residents  is not a wise move and could mean many Brick residents will not receive help, Mayor Stephen C. Acropolis said.

State officials have said federal guidelines for one of the grant programs New Jersey will administer to help residents elevate or rehabilitate their homes require that the bulk of the funds go to those considered low or moderate income.

That could leave many Brick families out of luck, the mayor said at a township council meeting Tuesday night.

"Originally, we were told by people in Trenton that the money would not be means tested, however it is going to be means tested," said Acropolis. "My comment to [federal officials] is, on the waterfront in Brick Township, with mom and dad working, maybe they have a couple kids and make $50,000 each. If they make $100,000 between the two of them, they're still just making ends meet."

The $600 million relief program, titled "Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation," or "RREM" by the state, will direct 70 percent of that funding toward low and moderate income households.

Under the state's affordable housing guidelines for Ocean County, moderate income is considered $51,179 for a single person, $58,490 for a two person household, $65,802 for a three person household and $73,113 for a four person household.

By the same token, a "low income" four person family in Ocean County earns $45,696 per year.

According to the 2010 census, the median income for a household in Brick is $81,868. Males had a median income of $60,769 while females had a median income of $41,361.

Acropolis said he personally brought his concerns to the attention of federal Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan in a recent meeting to which he was invited. In the conversation, Donovan indicated there could be a way to grant a waiver.

"He does understand, specifically, the needs of New Jersey," said Acropolis.

Under the program, homeowners can qualify for as much as $150,000 to aid in the reconstruction, rehabilitation, elevation and mitigation of damaged homes, a statement from Gov. Chris Christie's administration last week said.

"The $150,000 number sounds good, but if it's means tested, if it's split, there are going to be people in Brick who won't be able to get that money," said Acropolis.

The township council may consider sending a letter or passing a resolution commenting on the RREM program and other aspects of the state's federally-funded $1.8 billion aid program.

"The Christie Administration will dedicate over 50% of funding for low-to-moderate-income households, in accordance with HUD guidelines," the statement said.

Council members also took umbridge with the program's dedication of $25 million set aside for tourism advertising, as well as the fact that some of the package's programs – which include grants to businesses, home buyers and restoring parks and community areas – do not necessarily have to go to Shore area communities.

The state has said 80 percent of the funding will go to Atlantic, Bergen, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean and Union counties, which it considers the hardest hit. The remaining 20 percent of the funding can be used in other counties.

James Ward March 23, 2013 at 03:15 AM
70% of the 600M allocated for RREM goes to Median/Low income households, the remaining 30% would be 1st come 1st served. Reminder the deadline to file with FEMA through SBA is APRIL 1!! ...lets hope we see more relief at those #'s there will be thousands with no hope for aid.
J.JONES March 23, 2013 at 02:13 PM
When the hundreds of families walk away from there home cause they can't afford to fix or just pay any longer that PUBLIC ASSISTANCE AND FREE PERKS WILL GO OUT OF CONTROL...COMING SOON TO A TOWN NEAR YOU ..
Mrs. G. March 24, 2013 at 03:52 PM
Call me crazy - I don't think anyone should get grants to maintain their home. I have had to do things to my home in order to get a better rate on my homeowner's insurance policy. I am talking about replacing items that were functional and in excdellent condition. However, the insurance company felt storms would destroy the original structure. You buy a home, you maintain it. I have a home on the water, and it was built AND maintained with a storm in mind - no Sandy damage. Should I get a grant because I did the right thing up front??? By the way, have you driven down some of the streets in Brick? I thought safe driving conditions (drivable roads) were a part of BASIC tax services. Now we are going to foot the bill for wealthy people to IMPROVE their homes? Note to township leaders: tax payments should start to go into escrow a/c's until the right thing is done for the ENTIRE town!
Art March 24, 2013 at 07:26 PM
Mrs G-Please define "wealthy" for me. Just because a person has a house on the water doesn't mean they are wealthy. You said you have a home on the water. Is it your primary residence or is it a second home? If it's a second home then you must be wealthy. This is Brick, NJ not Rumson or Deal, NJ. There are not a lot of wealthy people in Brick. The mean income in my zip code is a little over $66K. Hardly what I would call wealthy by any standard. My waterfront home is my primary residence. Do you feel the same way about hurricane victims in Louisianna and Texas? How about mudslide victims in California or tornado victims in Kansas?
Christine Cathcart March 30, 2013 at 02:41 AM
If moderate to low income people are getting help financially, how come I haven't gotten any help? My insurance company denying wind damage, but roof is now leaking and have mold, but FEMA says I'm not eligible for SBA loan because I can't afford to pay it back, so, what do I do??????


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