Washington — The Department of Housing and Urban Development Friday approved nearly $72 million in grants Gov. Dannel Malloy plans to spend to help homeowners and others hit last year by Hurricane Sandy.
Approval of the plan means Malloy can move forward with a new housing program that would distribute $30 million in Community Development Block grants to homeowners who suffered damages from Sandy that were not covered by insurance companies or Federal Emergency Management Agency money.
“This funding will allow us to move forward with our plan to help residents rebuild, get businesses back on their feet and make some of the investments in our infrastructure that are so clearly necessary,” Malloy said in a statement.
He also said, “Connecticut has experienced more than its fair share of severe weather-related events … and we know that another storm is inevitable.”
Before HUD approved the plan, it asked Connecticut to add language promising to seek funding in the future for those made homeless by Sandy. The plan the state submitted to HUD had no money allocated for the homeless.
The reason: The Malloy administration said they could not document any need.
“Although we recognize that the displacement of a number families and households has occurred as a result of the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, to date we have not received any information identifying any unmet need or need for financial assistance to address an increase in homeless individuals or families or physical damage to homeless or transitional housing facilities,” the state’s action plan said.
Homeowners must live in Fairfield, New Haven, Middlesex, or New London counties or on the Mashantucket Pequot Indian Reservation to be eligible for the program, which would be run by the Connecticut Department of Housing.
That agency is headed by Commissioner Evonne Klein and was given staff from other agencies to make it operational July 1. The state is also advertising to fill 16 temporary jobs to specifically help administer the grant program, Klein said.
Rental properties or vacation homes are not be eligible for the program, and preference will be given to homeowners in low-income neighborhoods.
But other than that, few details of the new housing program have been settled.
Michael Santoro, a community development specialist at the Connecticut Department of Housing, said those details are still being worked out and would be made public before the end of August.
The minimum grant amount could be $5,000 to $10,000 and the maximum amount $100,000 to $150,000. “But nothing is written in stone,” Santoro said.
Another $26 million in HUD grants would go to owners of multiple-family apartment houses.
Connecticut proposed to spend $4 million on repairing infrastructure on the coast and $2.2 million to repair public buildings.
The state also proposed spending $2.2 million on economic revitalization.
But the HUD money will pay for only a fraction of the recovery costs from Sandy, estimated at more than $272 million. And the rollout of a disaster recovery program has been slow, compared to other Sandy-hit states.
Malloy submitted his action plan to HUD June 7. The agency announced its approval on the eve of a 45-day deadline.
In contrast, New York, New Jersey and New York City, which were harder hit by Sandy and received at about $1.7 billion each in HUD grants, submitted and had their proposals approved much quicker.
New York City turned in its proposal April 23. HUD conducted an expedited review and approved the plan three days later.
New York state submitted its proposal April 3, and it was approved April 26. New Jersey submitted its plan March 27, and HUD approved it April 29.
HUD spokesman Brian Sullivan said he did not know why it took his agency so long to OK a much more modest plan than those proposed by other Sandy-struck states.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, said, “I urge Governor Malloy to implement the plan as quickly as possible.”
“Sandy’s victims have waited nearly a year for relief and we must not delay any further, “ DeLauro said. “I fought to ensure Connecticut received these funds and will continue to be closely involved in the process so that the rest of the disaster relief money is made available to all who need it.”
The HUD grant money was part of $16 million in Community Development Block Grants included in a Hurricane Sandy recovery bill approved by Congress in January.
About $10 billion of that money has not been allocated, which means Connecticut could receive more disaster funding from HUD.