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I-Bank and NJOEM Champion Resilience with the Inauguration of a New Program to Leverage Federal STORM Act Funds to New Jersey

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October 2, 2023


In a major initiative to aid in the protection of New Jersey’s public infrastructure, legislation was enacted in the spring of 2023 that expanded the authority of the New Jersey Infrastructure Bank (the “I-Bank”) to partner with the New Jersey State Office of Emergency Management (“NJOEM”), within the Division of State Police to apply for and administer funds to finance hazard mitigation and resilience projects throughout the State. The funds are available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) as part of the Safeguarding Tomorrow through Ongoing Risk Mitigation (“STORM”) Act of 2020. This new program, dubbed the NJ Community Hazard Assistance Mitigation Program (“NJ CHAMP”), is established within the I-Bank’s New Jersey Resiliency Infrastructure Bank (“NJRIB”), adding to the I-Bank’s repertoire of existing infrastructure financing programs, the New Jersey Water Bank, and the New Jersey Transportation Bank.

The STORM Act established the STORM Revolving Loan Fund (“STORM RLF”) to provide revolving loan funds to states to finance projects that reduce risks from natural hazards and disasters. STORM Act funds are awarded by FEMA as capitalization grants to states to establish revolving loan funds that provide hazard mitigation assistance for local governments to reduce risks from natural hazards and disasters. NJ CHAMP was established to apply for STORM Act Funds and administer the revolving loan program in New Jersey. The Program will award very low-cost financing to eligible projects and manage the repayments as revolving loan funds to be re-lent to finance additional projects, similar to the construct of the Water Bank and Transportation Bank programs.

The current climate of extreme weather events dictates the preparation for unanticipated destruction and costly repairs. NJOEM and the I-Bank each have successful histories working with FEMA on behalf of New Jersey local government units. Among other things, NJOEM organizes, directs, staffs, coordinates, and reports the activities of the Emergency Response, Recovery, and Preparedness Bureaus, and is responsible for planning, directing, and coordinating emergency operations within the State which are beyond local control. As part of these responsibilities, NJOEM works closely with FEMA and its programs.

In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, the I-Bank developed the Statewide Assistance Infrastructure Loan program (“SAIL”), a statewide disaster assistance lending program that supports restoration and future mitigation measures. SAIL provides short-term funding assistance to address immediate cash flow needs for disaster-related eligible infrastructure projects in advance of reimbursements from federal grant programs such as FEMA’s Public Assistance Grant Program (“PA”) or Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (“HMGP”). SAIL participants also receive assistance with compliance oversight for federal FEMA legal requirements (Stafford Act). NJOEM and the I-Bank’s efforts to support planning for resilience have already protected NJ infrastructure and saved money throughout the state. NJ CHAMP will continue this mission by addressing the consequences of disasters before they occur.

In May 2023, the NJOEM and I-Bank applied to FEMA for STORM Act funds in the STORM program’s first funding cycle for high priority projects on New Jersey’s Hazard Mitigation Plan (“State HMP”). On September 12, 2023, FEMA announced the STORM Act fund grant recipients, each under $7 million. New Jersey received $6.4 million for the NJ CHAMP program, the third highest award to any state. Together with match funds of $640,000, the NJ CHAMP program will look to fund over $7 million of projects in its first year.

NJ CHAMP will provide low-interest loans for eligible hazard mitigation and resilience projects. NJ CHAMP is intended to supplement and complement state and federal hazard mitigation/risk reduction funding. Projects considered for funding will achieve objectives consistent with the goals and actions identified in the State HMP. NJOEM will review proposed projects in relation to goals and objectives established in the relevant HMP.

Pursuant to the STORM Act, the NJ CHAMP Priority System (“Priority System”) and the NJ CHAMP Project Priority List (“PPL”) have been published for the ensuing fiscal year as part of the program’s financial plan. In year one, the NJ CHAMP PPL is composed of 58 projects with an estimated value of $294,093,912 that have been identified and publicly vetted through the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Planning Process in New Jersey.

For more information on the parameters and standards of approval of NJ CHAMP loans see the NJ CHAMP Financial Plan. Interested parties may also contact I-Bank staff at (609) 219-8600 for additional assistance.