SPECIAL FEATURE From Business Facilities: Steadfast And Strong In The Wake Of Superstorm Sandy
NJ Mobilizes Storm ReliefGov. Christie’s administration recently unveiled its proposed Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Disaster Recovery Action Plan, which outlines how the State plans to utilize $1.8 billion in federal funding. This is the first phase of CDBG funds provided to NJ by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Additional CDBG recovery funds are expected in the coming months. With this first phase of funding, NJ is focusing primarily on helping homeowners, renters, businesses and communities impacted by Superstorm Sandy. The Christie Administration will dedicate more than half of this funding for low-to-moderate-income households, in accordance with HUD guidelines. Additionally, per HUD guidelines, 80 percent of the funds will be dedicated to the nine most heavily impacted counties in the state: Atlantic, Bergen, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean and Union. “This plan puts into motion the specific actions we’ve been designing to get relief out as quickly as possible to our Sandy-impacted homeowners and businesses—to reconstruct, rehabilitate and elevate homes, and to get over hurdles for our small businesses to get up and running again,” says Gov. Christie. “These programs have been carefully, but quickly designed to fill the unmet needs faced by our residents to rebuild in a safer, more enduring way, to strengthen our impacted local economies going into this summer and to help preserve the unique character of our shore communities as we’ve known them. With this first round of funding, we will also begin an aggressive marketing effort to let people both in the region and across the country know that New Jersey is rebounding and that the Jersey Shore will be open for business this summer.” As part of the plan, the Christie Administration is setting aside $500 million in funding for the New Jersey Economic Development Authority to administer the following activities:
- Small Business Grants of up to $50,000 to eligible businesses that sustained physical damage. A $300- million allocation will fund grants that can be used for purposes including rehabilitation, new construction, equipment, inventory, mitigation, refinancing and working capital.
- No-Interest Loans for Storm-Impacted Small Businesses ranging from $100,000 to $5 million for documented physical damage not covered by other sources. These loans are intended to assist eligible businesses that suffered physical damage, as well as spur economic revitalization by providing funding for expansion and new businesses in storm-impacted areas.
- Neighborhood And Community Revitalization Programs to provide funding of up to $10 million to help communities rebuild commercial areas with public facility improvements such as streetscapes, lighting, and sidewalks and undertake other activities critical to restoring and strengthening local economies, including micro-loans for storm-related damage and loan guarantees as well as façade and code-related improvements.
- A Tourism Marketing Campaign to promote storm-impacted businesses and shore communities by letting the nation know that New Jersey is recovering and that communities are open for business. The $25-million campaign also would encourage New Jerseyans and tourists to shop local.
- REBUILD New Jersey: This program provides low-interest loans to businesses that are recovering from the storm. The loans range from $10,000 to $30,000 and can be used to pay for building repairs, equipment and inventory purchases, rent or mortgage payments, salary expenses and utility costs.
- Clean Energy Program: Any business owner that is recovering from Sandy and is located within one of the identified damaged areas may be eligible to receive enhanced incentives on high-efficiency equipment/ appliances under NJ’s Clean Energy Program.
- Main Street Disaster Relief: This program provides guarantees of up to $500,000 for commercial lines of credit to businesses that need access to cash to improve their damaged property while awaiting insurance proceeds.
- Storm Recovery Loan Program: Launched by UCEDC, a non-profit economic development corporation, this program is a low-interest, fast-turn-around, working capital loan program for small businesses damaged by Sandy. Small business owners can borrow up to $25,000 at 2 percent interest for five years with no collateral requirements. For larger capital needs, the program offers loans up to $250,000 with conventional interest rates and processing periods.
Preparing For NJ’s FutureThere are also several initiatives in place to invest in New Jersey’s future growth. A $26-million investment by the state Department of Labor Workforce Development aims to connect those that are unemployed to Sandy recovery job opportunities through:
- Recovery4Jersey: Funds will support private sector companies focused on rebuilding New Jersey. Companies working with utilities, construction and other cleanup efforts will have access to this grant for up to $100,000.
- Skills4Jersey: This initiative focuses on upgrading the occupational, literacy and safety skills of current employees and the training of new employees.
- Opportunity4Jersey: Focused on filling the need for skills workers, this step of the initiative will fund training programs directly connected to the need of a number of employers.
NY’s Rapid ResponseJust a few days ahead of Gov. Christie’s action plan announcement, NY Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo submitted New York State’s proposal for housing and business recovery programs to HUD to help New Yorkers devastated by Superstorm Sandy. These programs will provide billions of dollars in direct aid to individuals, homeowners, and small businesses using funding from the $60 billion Sandy Aid approved by Congress in January. The State designed the diverse array of programs to specifically target federal aid to New Yorkers most in need and ensure the affected communities, and the entire region, builds back smarter and stronger than before. Recently, HUD issued rules and regulations governing the use of the first $1.7 billion allocated to New York. The programs will be offered outside New York City (NYC will administer similar programs to meet the same needs its own CDBG-DR allocation of $1.7 billion). The Action Plan represents the spending plan only for this initial allocation of CDBG-DR funds and does not reflect the full scope of recovery activities being undertaken by NY through other state and federal programs. “I look forward to building on the partnership we have created with Governor Cuomo to help communities in New York rebuild in a way that makes them stronger, more economically competitive and better able to withstand the next storm,” says Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, who also serves as Chair of the Hurricane Rebuilding Sandy Task Force. Gov. Cuomo has made it clear that preparing for the next storm must also include some tough decisions about which areas should be restricted from rebuilding. The NY governor wants to set aside $400 million to purchase vulnerable shore properties and restore them to uninhabited wetlands. NY also proposes to use $415 million to help businesses replace or repair lost or damaged inventory and equipment, repair and mitigate damaged facilities, and cover working capital needs. The funds will be disbursed through the following programs:
- Small Business Grants—$233 million: NY will direct grant funds to help businesses, including farming and agricultural operations, and non-profits that suffered physical damage or inventory loss, as a result of Superstorm Sandy. Grants of up to $50,000 to cover eligible, uncompensated losses are proposed to enable an affected business to purchase or repair needed equipment, repair or rebuild facilities that were damaged or destroyed in the storm, and/or provide the working capital necessary to sustain and grow the business. The state may extend grants up to a total grant amount of $100,000 to businesses that suffered physical damage and are at risk of closure or significant employment loss without an increase in grant size. Special Business Mitigation Grants of up to $100,000 are also proposed to cover expenses such as installing back-up generators or elevating key equipment, to help prevent damage to these businesses in future disasters.
- Small Business Loans—$130 million: NY will create a low-interest loan program to help small businesses, including farming and agricultural operations, and non-profits that are at risk because they suffered losses of inventory, or physical assets as a result of the storm. Loans of up to $1 million may be available to help these businesses purchase or repair needed equipment, repair and rebuild facilities that were damaged or destroyed in the storm, and/or provide the working capital necessary to sustain and grow the business. Loans of higher amounts may be offered to eligible businesses that are at risk of closure or significant employment loss. Terms will be flexible, with interest rates held below 2 percent for borrowers.
- Business Consulting, Mentoring—$3 million: NY will create an online network to facilitate connections between consultants and business practitioners who are willing to provide consulting and mentoring services to small businesses hit hard by the storm. Up to $3 million will be used to build the network and support the providers of the consulting and mentoring services, including financial management, real estate, marketing, legal and industry-specific assistance.
- Coastal Fishing Industry Recovery Program—$20 million: Coastal fishing supports thousands of jobs in New York State. Superstorm Sandy caused significant damage to the fisheries along New York’s coastline, and while these fisheries will also be eligible to participate in the other small business assistance programs announced today, the industry is subject to unique considerations. To help this vital industry recover, New York State will create a targeted program to support grants of up to $50,000 available to affected businesses. These grants would cover otherwise eligible, uncompensated losses and help the industry prepare now for the upcoming fishing season.
- Seasonal Tourism Industry Recovery Program—$30 million: While these seasonal tourism businesses also will be eligible to participate in the other small business assistance programs, seasonal small businesses in coastal and riverine communities require an immediate injection of support to ensure that they can reopen and operate in time for the upcoming summer season. Accordingly, the state seeks to provide grants of up to $50,000 to eligible businesses in this industry. The grants will cover otherwise eligible, uncompensated losses and working capital needs to help them prepare for the coming season.
- Funding plumbing inspections (one-time, $150 bill credit eligible to residential customers)
- Funding heating equipment for the most vulnerable residential customers, with grants available up to $6,000
- Supporting commercial redevelopment and rebuilding communities with grants available up to $250,000
Other posts by