TRENTON, N.J. – The Christie Administration today announced the award of more than $44 million in the third funding round of the Essential Services Grants (ESG) Program. These competitive grants have met a vital need at a crucial time for Sandy-impacted local governments. The program was designed to ensure the continuation of critical services until lost ratables were recovered, without resorting to unsustainable property tax increases.
"Three separate funding rounds of Essential Services Grants – one each in 2013, 2014, and 2015 – have guaranteed that communities hit by the storm could continue the necessary investment in public safety, road maintenance, sanitation and education," said New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Charles Richman, whose department administers the grants.
As commercial and residential rebuilding fortifies local coffers in town after town in Sandy-affected areas, there is a markedly reduced need for the Essential Services Grants. Commissioner Richman said, "These grants have functioned exactly as intended; they’ve provided bridge funding until recovery efforts reinvigorated local economies. They have also provided the foundation for our housing and economic recovery programs to work in that they’ve allowed the communities to remain attractive, which helped encourage families and businesses to stay and rebuild."
In all, the Administration has awarded approximately $132.5 million to sustain necessary services in heavily damaged municipalities. Sea Bright Mayor Dina Long, whose borough received more than $2.8 million in Essential Services Grants during the three years of the program, agreed with Commissioner Richman’s assessment of their beneficial impact.
"The Essential Services Grant has helped provide Sea Bright with stability during a very unstable time," Mayor Long said. "The grants have allowed us to maintain seamless operations for our Public Safety and Public Works departments in spite of diminished tax revenues during our recovery from Sandy. Quite frankly, in the aftermath of the storm and unprecedented damage it caused in our borough, we couldn't have maintained critical functions without it."
"Without it, we would not have recovered as quickly," said Paul Shives, administrator for Toms River, which received nearly $33.3 million in Essential Services Grants during the three years of the program. "These grants enabled us to maintain the fabric of our community. Toms River would be a very different town without them."
Shives said the reduction in services and increase in local taxes would have had a ripple effect on the township’s residents and businesses and would have made the township less desirable. "The recovery process depended on the continuation of the services the Essential Services Grants maintained," he said.
The Essential Services Grants are funded through federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Disaster Recovery monies provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The grants fill the unmet needs gap between a local government’s Sandy generated revenue losses and monies the local government received from private insurance and all available federal assistance programs such as FEMA Public Assistance and the FEMA Community Disaster Loan Program.
"Essential Services Grants have provided storm-affected communities with a stable foundation upon which homeowners could reliably choose to rebuild their homes through our largest housing recovery program, the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program," said DCA Deputy Commissioner David Reiner, who oversees the Department’s Sandy Recovery Division. "This is a perfect example of our programs working together to keep the recovery effort moving forward."
The Essential Services Grants recipients and the total amount they have received over the three years of the program are listed below:
|County||Local Government||Total Grant Amount|
|Atlantic||Brigantine Board of Ed||$24,093|
|Monmouth||Keansburg Board of Ed||$271,413|
|Monmouth||Sea Bright Borough||$2,810,475|
|Ocean||Lavallette Board of Ed||$63,000|
|Ocean||Little Egg Harbor Board of Ed||$254,128|
|Ocean||Pinelands Regional Board of Ed||$84,208|
|Ocean||Seaside Heights Borough||$5,083,750|
|Ocean||Seaside Heights Board of Ed||$200,000|
|Ocean||Seaside Park Borough||$200,489|
|Ocean||Toms River Township||$33,279,053|
|Ocean||Toms River Regional Board of Ed||$28,842,361|