COLUMBIA (WACH)??The Federal Government has announced a third round of disaster relief money, $2.5 Billion, for states hit by SuperStorm Sandy in October of 2012.
Mayor Bill Schroeder blames, in part, a maddening bureaucracy that led residents to put off rebuilding while they waited for federal guidelines. These guidelines later disqualified them from getting help from New Jersey??s $4.2 billion dollars in Sandy aid because their income wasn??t low enough.
Disaster relief money went full speed ahead for an expense that is usually off limits: TV ads promoting tourism. The government gave New Jersey and New York special waivers to spend some of their disaster money on tourism ads.
Louisiana and Mississippi were granted the same special permission after Hurricane Katrina.
Republican Senator Tom Coburn says disaster aid funds are meant to help those directly affected. ??Why is it a federal role that we take money from Oklahoma or Louisiana or California and send money to New Jersey so they can run ads to suck people out of those states to go to New Jersey??? said Coburn.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development administers the $15.2 billion allocated for rebuilding from Sandy. It granted the waivers for tourism ads.
In a letter to Senator Coburn, a HUD official said, "Tourism support can be a useful recovery tool in a damaged regional economy that depends on tourism."
Thousands of NJ residents are still waiting to find out if they will get any Sandy relief money. Senator Coburn has asked HUD to stop allowing tens of millions of it to be spent on TV ads.
The Mayor says the townspeople will rebuild, just without much help from billions in federal disaster funds.