$1B competition to protect towns from storms launches, funded with Sandy money

A national competition funded with $1 billion from the Hurricane Sandy relief package launched today, allowing states and local governments that have experienced disasters to vie for aid to support projects that will protect against future storms.

Roughly $180 million from the competition has been set aside for New Jersey and New York, but federal officials said both states would be eligible to compete for the other $820 million. The competition will be modeled after a regional contest launched after Sandy that awarded funding in June to six proposals, including projects in Hoboken and the Meadowlands.

The competition will help communities prepare for severe weather events, which are happening more frequently, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro said today.

Between 2011 and 2013, Castro said, there have been more than 200 major disasters declared in 48 states.

“As we’ve seen all too often in the past few years, communities across the country are facing significant risk from extreme weather,” Castro said in a conference call with reporters today. “Climate change is making extreme weather events more frequent and more severe and every corner of America has been impacted.”

Each of those states, as well as Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and 17 local governments, may now apply for funding through the competition. Nevada and South Carolina are the only states not eligible to participate.

The competition will take place in two phases, with applications for the first phase due in March 2015.

Applicants not selected to move to the second phase will still be eligible for up to $2.5 million in funding, Castro said, while projects that move to the second phase will be eligible for awards from $1 million to $500 million.

Judith Rodin, president of The Rockefeller Foundation, said the New York-based philanthropic organization will run workshops and provide technical help to applicants. The foundation, she said, is “committed to spurring innovation in resilience planning and design so that communities can build better, more resilient futures, particularly for their most vulnerable citizens”

The funding for the competition comes from the disaster relief bill passed after Sandy hit.

New Jersey and New York lawmakers have previously criticized the federal government for this plan to divert Sandy aid to other areas of the country. Federal officials have noted, however, that money has already gone to communities outside of the region.

Congress approved $16 billion in flexible federal grants in that package but spending cuts brought that figure down to $15.2 billion.

New Jersey has so far been allocated more than $4.17 billion of those grants, including $380 million for the two projects that won funding last summer through the Rebuild by Design competition.

More than $4.4 billion in aid has been earmarked for New York, while New York City is set to receive roughly $4.2 billion. Connecticut, Rhode Island and Maryland also received nearly $208 million in total from the Community Development Block Grant program.

Roughly $1 billion in aid from the Sandy relief package has already been distributed to other regions of the country not impacted by the 2012 storm, including Joplin, Mo., and Moore, Okla.

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