NYC to Start Distributing $1.8 Billion In Sandy Aid

NEW YORK (AP) -

Almost $1.8 billion in federal money for repairing homes, helping businesses and covering the city’s expenses after Superstorm Sandy is set to start flowing soon in New York City, officials said Friday.

Now that federal officials have signed off on the city’s plans for spending the funds, “the money’s very close to being able to go out the door,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a City Hall news conference.

A number of recovery efforts have already been under way since the Oct. 29 storm. But officials said the new money could go to needs as yet unmet — to businesses that couldn’t secure other disaster loans, for instance, or residential co-op buildings with common areas that weren’t eligible for aid.

The funds are also slated for forward-looking efforts, such as  rebuilding flood-damaged homes and sponsoring a contest to develop technologies for protecting electrical, fuel and telecommunications networks.

The money represents the city’s first chunk of a more than $50-billion multistate Sandy recovery package. This slice is in the form of what’s known as community development block grants, which generally have to be used for affordable housing, job creation and social services.

With an estimated 63,000 private homes and apartments and 350 public housing buildings across the city damaged by Sandy, the plan allocates nearly $650 million for housing needs, including rebuilding homes and apartment buildings and providing up to two years of rent assistance for displaced residents.

The repair money can cover such problems as removing mold — a concern that has brewed among residents and their advocates in recent months — and the cost of elevating a badly damaged home as it’s rebuilt.

About $300 million is headed toward loans, flood-proofing investments and other programs for businesses. Sandy flooded about 23,400 businesses around the city, and almost one-fifth of them were closed for more than four months, according to city officials.

The city expects to start taking applications for the business programs around May 20 and the housing initiatives sometime in June.

About $530 million is earmarked for the city itself, to reimburse storm costs, fix damaged roads and hospitals, and other recover projects. Another $294 million will make New York more resilient to storms, heat waves and rising sea levels.