OK. Cuba Gooding was a tad crass in the film Jerry Maguire when he said, “Show me the money!” And the same might be said in reference to expectations for Sandy relief. Nonetheless, while we in New Jersey are very much in need of help, funds for affected individuals and projects are being delayed. Our Congress has yet to vote on the $60 billion relief package, and even if they pass a bill in a few days the federal government will be averse to a rapid distribution because it is facing a debt ceiling crisis. The State because of its own woeful budget position is hard-put to find extra funds and also faces a cash flow problem. Some foundations have rushed to provide monies while others have not. Also because the State has extended the revenue/expenses filing deadline for some Sandy foundations, information on their funding will be delayed, and their schedule for disbursements may be altered.
The Senate may approve the aid bill today (and it could possibly be at a reduced amount), but what will happen in the House is far from clear. Our dysfunctional congress remains in a seemingly endless and precarious position with one foot over the fiscal cliff – a deadline agreed to by its members – but one which the Tea party House members particularly seem unwilling to resolve. Not only is the cliff dominating the discussion in Congress, but once again Tea Party members and even Representatives concerned about facing a primary from a more conservative opponent appear hesitant to take up or vote on Sandy relief.
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner in announcing The United States will reach its $16.4 trillion borrowing limit on Dec. 31 said, “The government has $200 billion worth of “extraordinary” actions it can employ to prevent default.” Unfortunately, until the debt ceiling crisis is resolved, “extraordinary” actions would likely include reduced funding of new projects like Sandy relief. Another delay.
As the Office of Legislative Services points out, State revenue growth has been basically flat in the first five months of the fiscal year, at 0.1%. Governor Christie’s budget was based on an absurdly high 8% increase. As the Star-Ledger indicates,“Combined with the $253 million budget gap left over from last year, the total $704 million hole would consume the entire $600 million financial cushion, and even then, officials would have to reopen the books to slash funding for other items.” Not a pretty picture for people hoping for relief from the state.
The Robin Hood Foundation, a NYC-based group, has already announced over $2 million in Sandy relief funds distributed to NJ organizations prior to its widely viewed “12-12-12” Concert, including $1 million to the Affordable Housing Alliance, $150,000 to Borough of Keansburg Trust, and $400,000 to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey. However, the highly promoted Hurricane Sandy NJ Relief Fund, founded two months ago and under the direction of Mary Pat Christie, has yet to disburse any relief. In a rather bureaucratic move its main board voted last week to release $1 million of its pledged $28 million to subcommittees which will decide on its allocation. They say they will begin accepting proposals in January for grants. In the meantime, the Division of Consumer Affairs Charity Registration Section announced it will allow some registrants affected by Hurricane Sandy additional time to file reports. Such will delay public information availability on what charities have funded, allow scamming groups more time to avoid detection, and could impact schedules for disbursement.