HOBOKEN – U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D–NJ) and Rep. Albio Sires (NJ – 8th Dist.) joined Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer on the corner of Garden Street and Newark Street Friday morning to announce a new piece of legislation that would expand hazard mitigation funds for states, like New Jersey, that adhere to certain construction codes.
The Safe Building Codes Incentive Act would re-allocate the Federal Emergency Management Association’s (FEMA) hazard mitigation funds so that states that enforce any nationally-recognized, state-of-the-art building codes would be given 4 percent more grant money than states which do not. Currently, New Jersey is one of 16 states that employs these types of codes.
In the six months since Hurricane Sandy ravaged the East Coast, nearly $1.4 billion in relief funding has been offered through FEMA, so, according to Menendez, “4 percent is a lot of money.”
The new law would not only help Sandy victims apply for business and residential grants to help them recover, but would also allow residents to make retroactive home improvements in order to protect them against the next superstorm. For instance, one could apply for a grant to move electrical boxes or furnaces above flood levels.
“We want to give residents the opportunity to make their homes better and stronger than before the storm,” said Menendez.
The sixteen states that stand to benefit the most from the bill tend to subscribe to one of three sets of codes. New Jersey adheres the to the International Code Council’s (ICC) codes, while many western states employ the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials’ (IAPMO) codes, and still more use the codes set forth by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
After thanking Menendez and Sires for introducing the legislation, Zimmer announced that $50,000 grants are now available to Hoboken business owners, and residential grants will soon be made available.
Sires, a former mayor of West New York, said that he and Menendez, a former mayor of Union City, understood exactly what Zimmer has been going through, and their experiences in municipal politics inspired them to introduce the legislation.
“We need to do what we can to help, we want to make sure that this bill gets through,” he said.
Sires and Menendez said that they expected minimal political roadblocks in Congress in pushing through the legislation. Menendez noted that because 16 states stand to gain significantly from its passage, the issue had become more “red, white and blue” than simply Democrat and Republican.
“We’re very confident because we’ve got bipartisan support for this,” said Sires. –Dean DeChiaro