The state of New Jersey just may be receiving some much need storm aid from a state that knows a thing or two about dealing with hurricanes — Florida. Former North Plainfield mayor and chairman of the New Jersey Building Authority, Frank Nero, who is currently the Miami-Dade Beacon Council President and CEO, wrote a letter to Governor Chris Christie offering assistance and suggestions on rebuilding the state’s businesses due to the fury of Hurricane Sandy.
“I am contacting you with a heavy heart, and foremost as a true New Jersey native,” said Nero to the Miami Today News. “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.”
After the state of Florida was ravaged by Hurricane Andrew back in 1992, the State Hurricane Andrew Recovery and Rebuilding Trust Fund, (HARRTF), the first of its kind in the nation was created to help out area businesses – a model which Nero believes may be advantageous for the state of New Jersey.
According to an interview by Miami Today, Nero noted the program sets 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 while awaiting federal aid or insurance settlements. In the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, the Beacon Council assisted processing hundreds of bridge loans for area businesses and based on Nero’s calculations to Miami Today, more than 90 percent of the loans were eventually repaid. Also the HARRTF was able to designate over $700 million in incremental sales tax to the effort of rebuilding.
According to Nero, the Emergency Bridge Loan Program (EBLP), which sole purpose is to provide a source of expedient cash flow to Florida’s small businesses impacted by a disaster, helped to save more than 500 small businesses in the state. Established in the wake of Hurricane Wilma in 2005, the EBLP on a smaller scale may be just what New Jersey needs to start the rebuilding process.
The final program in Nero’s letter to Christie which was very effective in Florida is, “We Will Rebuild.” This program served as a model for creating public-private partnerships to provide assistance with housing and social services.
"It may not be perfect for them [in New Jersey]," Nero said to Miami Today about the Florida programs, "but at least it's a foundation they can build on."