HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan Weighs in On Use of Sandy Aid

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Federal Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan has been visiting our region, checking in on the recovery progress and announcing the first round of federal aid to the region three months after Sandy. 

Donovan, President Obama's point man on rebuilding efforts in the area, says a plan to buy and demolish Sandy-damaged homes could work.

He visited Staten Island Wednesday, where many residents support Governor Cuomo 's proposal to use $400 million to buy out residents whose homes are in flood-prone areas. The HUD Secretary says it asks people to make a hard decision, but he's seen this type of plan work before, in places like Iowa, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. 

"Frankly this really only works well if you get an entire community to work together." he told WNYC. "I was talking to somebody yesterday, 150 out of 170 homeowners in one neighborhood in Staten Island have come together and have agreed it makes sense to do this buyout."

Donovan says some of the federal money coming to the region for Sandy aid can go to help those still living in hotels. 
He said the first allocation of the money will come in the form of community development block grants that will help homeowner and businesses rebuild and help fill other gaps.

"It's the most flexible money that we have in our whole toolkit, if you will, of federal efforts after disasters."

Donovan says FEMA is working with those families to find a more permanent solution, but anyone still needing needs assistance should call 1-800-621-FEMA. 

The New York-New Jersey region will receive roughly $5 billion in the first installment of Sandy aid, and New York City is set to receive $1.8 billion in relief funds. 

Listen to WNYC's Soterios Johnson's full interview with Secretary Donovan above.