Miami-Dade offers storm aid to New Jersey
By Scott Blake
From one Jersey guy to another, Miami-Dade Beacon Council President and CEO Frank Nero is offering New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie some suggestions on how to help businesses and others in the Garden State recover from Hurricane Sandy based on Florida's extensive experience with such storms.
Mr. Nero this week sent Gov. Christie a letter, offering the Beacon Council's assistance if New Jersey were to consider programs similar to those set up in Florida following Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
"I am contacting you with a heavy heart, and foremost as a true New Jersey native," Mr. Nero, a former mayor of North Plainfield, NJ, and former chairman of the New Jersey Building Authority, wrote in a letter dated Monday.
"Our organization, The Beacon Council, is the official economic development organization for Miami-Dade County and we have a long history of developing programs to implement business disaster recovery," he added.
During an interview Tuesday with Miami Today, Mr. Nero said a model developed in Florida that New Jersey might want to follow is a bridge loan program created in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew.
The program, he said, set aside a portion of sales tax revenue from sales of supplies and other goods following a disaster for use as loans to help small businesses sustain themselves, often while awaiting federal aid or insurance settlements.
After Hurricane Andrew, the Beacon Council helped process several hundred bridge loans for area businesses, helping them with applications and assisting them in dealing with a state-designated banking committee in charge of approving the loans.
More than 90% of the loans eventually were repaid, Mr. Nero said.
The "Hurricane Andrew Rebuilding/Recovery Trust Fund, the first of its kind in the nation, assigned more than $700 million in incremental sale tax revenues to the rebuilding effort," he wrote to Gov. Christie. "Over $10 million was also earmarked for the Emergency Bridge Loan program, which saved more than 500 small businesses."
The council helped carry out a similar program, although on a smaller scale, following Hurricane Wilma in 2005.
"It may not be perfect for them [in New Jersey]," Mr. Nero said to Miami Today about the Florida programs, "but at least it's a foundation they can build on."
Another Florida program that might be useful, he said, is a wider relief effort called "We Will Rebuild," which served as a model for creating public-private partnerships to provide assistance with housing, social services and other needs after Hurricane Andrew.
According to Mr. Nero, the "We Will Rebuild" program brought together more than 800 business and community volunteers who raised more than $27 million for relief measures.
The programs, he wrote, "that were developed have been utilized as the model for many state business recovery programs and the current State of Florida Emergency Bridge Loan program."
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