Reflecting on a Year of Recovery After Superstorm Sandy and Moving Forward

By Linda Greenberg, PhD, Senior Advisor

The one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy serves as an opportunity to reflect on the past year; recovering from the devastating effects of the storm are far from over.  Superstorm Sandy impacted the lives of millions and caused damage and suffering in hundreds of communities across New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Maryland.  Although the devastating effects of the storm still linger, and many areas are awaiting restoration, there is much work underway to rebuild storm-damaged areas.

Recovery is more than rebuilding buildings; it is about getting lives back on track, getting kids back to school, restoring health and social services, and creating safe environments to live.  The storm and its aftermath exacerbated the needs of the most vulnerable. How do we protect small children, children with special needs, and the frail elderly?

The Administration for Children and Families awarded $475 million for supplemental social service block grants (SSBG) to New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Maryland.  This program provides flexible funding to States to offer a wide range of services to children and families, vulnerable older adults, persons with disabilities, and at-risk adolescents and young adults. States determine the types of services that will be provided, who is eligible to receive services, and how funds are used within the requirements of Federal law. 

ACF staff recently visited State officials in New York and New Jersey to learn more about recovery efforts underway.  Both States are focusing their recovery efforts not only on the physical rebuilding of buildings, but also on providing health and social services to persons adversely affected by the storm.  SSBG grants will be used to reinforce social services infrastructure to allow providers to offer social, health, and behavioral health services as well as to repair, renovate, and rebuild health care, child care, and other social services facilities.

We all recognize the need for accountability and transparency in federal spending, specifically how the SSBG funds are being spent.  New York and New Jersey have announced grant funding through their State websites and have established internal mechanisms to ensure public accountability of these federal funds.  In New York, SSBG grant awards were made in a public and transparent request for proposals.   Approximately $200 million was awarded to more than 450 healthcare and human service providers and other community-based organizations.  In New Jersey, over $226 million of SSBG funds are being directed by the NJ Department of Human Services (DHS), and is shared with the NJ Department of Health (DOH) and the NJ Department of Children and Families (DCF).  NJ State officials recently announced a program of over $60 million to provide housing and rental assistance to individuals and families affected by the storm. 

This funding is a step to helping rebuild communities and families. If you want to learn more about the SSBG funding in New York and New Jersey, please see their State websites at:  http://stormrecovery.ny.gov/sandy-social-services-block-grant-ssbg-fu... and http://www.state.nj.us/governor/news/news/552013/approved/20130701b.h...   ACF supports these efforts and we will share progress in the year ahead.