In late October 2012, Hurricane Sandy caused unprecedented devastation throughout the five boroughs. As Mayor Bloomberg stated, “Make no mistake about it, this was a devastating storm, maybe the worst that we have ever experienced.” Scores of businesses were closed for months afterwards, and many New Yorkers found themselves out of work. In fact, over 150,000 people in New York State filed for unemployment insurance benefits in November 2012 – nearing the record set since the recession hit in 2009.
The US Department of Labor mobilized quickly in the wake of Hurricane Sandy to activate the National Emergency Grant (NEG) program. The NEG program helps to fund temporary jobs in the wake of a disaster. These funds were made available to help clean up the areas affected by the storm and to provide humanitarian assistance as people struggled to get back in their homes and back to their livelihoods.
Working with the NYC Department of Small Business Services (SBS) and the New York State Department of Labor, OHCD assisted in managing the NEG program for New York City. Following the successful launch of the program by SBS and the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, which placed more than 800 individuals in jobs, OHCD quickly convened other City agencies to take advantage of additional NEG funds.
OHCD recognized that NEG funding could potentially be utilized by a broad assortment of City agencies. Some agencies were struggling with Sandy-related paperwork, others sustained capital damage, and still others were responsible for public spaces that were in dire need of clean-up and repair. As OHCD Executive Director Michelle Light put it, “NEG was an opportunity to connect New Yorkers in need with our City agencies in need.” OHCD brought citywide visibility to the NEG funds and engaged over 30 City agencies, outlining the opportunity and inviting proposals. OHCD provided technical assistance as agencies crafted potential applications and managed the submission of proposals to NYSDOL in order to streamline the complex intergovernmental process. OHCD also joined two visits in New York City with then-US Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis in November 2012.
Ultimately, NYC secured over $33 million to hire 2,050 temporary workers across 10 distinct projects administered by Mayor's Office of Contracting Services, Mayor's Office of Housing Recovery Operations, NYC Department for the Aging, NYC Department of Buildings, NYC Department of Homeless Services, NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, NYC Department of Sanitation, NYC Department of Small Business Services, NYC Department of Youth and Community Development, and NYC Housing Authority.
NEG-funded workers have conducted debris removal, community outreach, housing placement assistance, clerical processing for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and other important recovery-related tasks. Notably, NYC is the first jurisdiction to fund temporary humanitarian assistance jobs with NEG dollars in the history of this grant. Download the infographic (in PDF) that OHCD released on the first anniversary of Hurricane Sandy to highlight the work that City agencies have accomplished with NEG funds.
OHCD continues to work with SBS as well as the state and federal Departments of Labor to monitor progress as City agencies administer their projects and spend the NEG funds.
For additional information on NEG, please visit the NYS Department of Labor Fact Sheet (in PDF).