oversight

Interim Report on Community Development Block Grant Disaster Assistance Funds, New York, New York

Published by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General on 2002-05-22.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                                            U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
                                                                    New York/New Jersey Office
                                                                 Jacob K. Javits Federal Building
                                                                   26 Federal Plaza - Room 3430
                                                              New York, New York 10278-0068

                                                            OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL
                                                                             Office of Audit

May 22, 2002                                                           Memorandum No:
                                                                       2002-NY-1802

MEMORANDUM FOR: Nelson Bregón, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Grant Programs, DG


FROM: Alexander C. Malloy, District Inspector General for Audit, 2AGA


SUBJECT:         Interim Report on Community Development Block Grant
                 Disaster Assistance Funds
                 New York, New York

The Congress tasked1 the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Office
of Inspector General (OIG) to audit the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Disaster
Assistance Funds provided to the State of New York resulting from the September 11, 2001,
terrorist attack on New York City. The Governor of the State of New York authorized Empire
State Development Corporation (Empire State) to administer the Disaster Assistance funds. We
recently started our audit of those funds and expect to issue a report in November 2002. During
our initial interviews with representatives of Empire State, we quickly realized that this is a fast
moving operation. Each week, hundreds of applications are processed and millions of dollars are
disbursed. Also, Empire State changes its processing procedures as needed. With this in mind,
we noted two concerns that we believe warrant immediate attention. These concerns pertain to:
(1) duplication of grants and loans from various sources, and (2) the applicant’s economic loss
amount.

First, Empire State may be awarding CDBG disaster grants to applicants that have already
received Small Business Administration (SBA) Disaster Loans. In some instances, applicants
may not be eligible to receive both a CDBG grant and a SBA loan. Second, Empire State
requires applicants to estimate the amount of their economic loss. This estimate is a key
component of the calculation that is used to determine whether an applicant is eligible for a
grant. Until recently, an applicant was not required to provide any details showing how the
amount of the estimated loss was derived. It should be noted that in some instances, the amount
of the estimated loss is in the millions of dollars.

1
    Conference Report to Accompany H.R. 3338 (Report Number 107-350, page 456)
                                                 1
                                       BACKGROUND
The Congress has authorized HUD to provide the State of New York $2.7 billion of Community
Development Block Grant Assistance. The first congressional appropriation was in the amount
of $700 million, which was awarded by HUD to the State of New York on February 13, 2002,
through Empire State for the properties and business damaged by, and economic revitalization
related to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.
Regarding the additional $2 billion in assistance, Lower Manhattan Development Corp (LMDC),
a subsidiary of Empire State, has been designated as the entity that will distribute those funds for
the State of New York. Currently, LMDC is finalizing an action plan that will show how those
funds will be allocated.

With respect to Empire State’s Action Plan, which is dated January 30, 2002, it describes how
the $700 million is allocated among various categories. Pursuant to that Plan, the $700 million
has been allocated as follows:

Compensation for Economic Losses, $401 million
Technical Assistance for Small Businesses, $5 million
Retention and Attraction Assistance, $250 million
Business Information, $5 million
Infrastructure Rebuilding-Initial Planning and Design, $25 million
Administration, $14 million

Regarding the Compensation for Economic Losses, this category consists of three sub-programs:
applicable to small businesses. They are as follows: the Bridge Loan Program, the Business
Recovery Loans, and the Business Recovery Grant Program. Empire State budgeted $396
million2 for these sub-programs, with $331 million of this amount allocated for the Business
Recovery Grant Program.

As of April 30, 2002, Empire State had disbursed about $110 million to 4100 applicants, who
applied for Business Recovery Grants. Empire State expects to process over 19,000 applications
through December 2002, under its Business Recovery Grant Program. Empire State had not
disbursed any Federal funds under the Business Recovery Loans Program or the Bridge Loan
Program at April 30, 2002.

Because the Business Recovery Grant Program is the only program currently in operation, our
audit efforts have been concentrated on understanding this Program. In doing so, we noted two
issues that we believe need immediate attention. They pertain to the alternative requirement
pertaining to duplication of benefits, and the manner in which the amount of an applicant’s
economic loss was determined. The two issues are discussed in the next section of this report.




2
 The Compensation for Economic Losses includes $396 million for small businesses and $5 million for
compensation to other businesses.
                                                  2
                                   RESULTS OF REVIEW

DUPLICATE BENEFITS

When Congress authorized the funds for the CDBG Disaster Assistance, it directed the Secretary
of HUD to either waive various requirements or specify alternative requirements. In January and
February 2002, HUD published various waivers and alternative requirements. One of the
alternative requirements pertained to duplication of benefits. The Federal Register3 provided that
“CDBG funds appropriated under the Emergency Response Fund4 may not be used to provide
funds for the same specific uses as disaster loans made available by the Small Business
Administration (SBA) in compliance with 15 U.S.C. 636 (b)(1)(A). If the needs for assistance
are more than the SBA disaster amount, CDBG assistance may be used to fund such additional
need. New York State should encourage the use of SBA physical damage and economic injury
disaster loans; they offer low interest rates and favorable terms.”

As mentioned in the above background part of this memorandum, Empire State is administering
New York State’s CDBG Disaster Assistance Program. As part of our audit of the Business
Recovery Grant Program, we held various discussions with Empire State’s management. During
these discussions, Empire State representatives indicated that they do not believe that any
duplication exists with SBA loans. Empire State management believes that SBA loans focus on
the need to meet working capital needs; whereas, the funds disbursed regarding the Business
Recovery Grant Program are for economic losses resulting from the disaster. The HUD Senior
Program Officer responsible for monitoring the New York State’s CDBG Disaster Assistance
Program agrees with Empire State’s management.

However, our discussions with the Deputy Area Director for SBA, who is located in Niagara
Falls, indicated that duplication of benefits could exist if the benefits provided by the Business
Recovery Grant and the SBA loan are in excess of the amount of an applicant’s net economic
loss. Furthermore, the application form for the Business Recovery Grant states: “Note to SBA
Borrowers and Applicants: Grant assistance provided under this program may not be used for the
same specific purposes as disaster loans made by the Small Business Administration.”
Inasmuch as there appears to be a difference of opinion, we believe that HUD needs to clarify
this issue.

In connection with the issue discussed above, we noted that one of the Senate Reports5 that
accompanied the various public laws pertaining to the CDBG disaster funds, indicates that any
payments made from the CDBG funds should be reduced by paid or projected insurance policy
payments, as well as, benefits under the public assistance program, individual assistance
program, or other Federal programs.



3
  Docket No. FR 4732-N-01, dated January 28, 2002 and Docket No. FR4732-C-02 dated February 7,
2002
4
  CDBG funds used for the New York State’s economic recovery were initially authorized by Public Law
107-38, Emergency Response Fund
5
  Senate Report 107-109, page 206
                                                  3
Because disaster funds under the Business Recovery Grant Program are expected to be disbursed
until the end of December, 2002, we believe that HUD should resolve this issue as quickly as
possible. This is important because Empire State only requires the applicant to provide
information on insurance proceeds and two non-Federal grants6. Empire State does not require
the applicant to provide information on other grants or loans that the applicant may have
received, such as SBA loans, etc.

ECONOMIC LOSS AMOUNT

An applicant must certify to the accuracy of the total amount of the economic loss reported on
the application. Also, an applicant must provide such documentation as a Federal tax return for
the most recent fiscal year prior to September 11, 2001. Depending upon the location of an
applicant’s business, an applicant may receive up to 4 percent of the amount of income identified
on the Federal tax return. The grant amount is essentially a calculated amount. However,
Empire State reduces the grant amount if it exceeds the applicant’s net economic loss. Until
recently, Empire State only required an applicant to provide an estimated loss amount. The
applicant was not required to provide any details showing or describing how the estimated loss
was derived. In some instances, the amount of the estimated loss is in the millions of dollars.

During our review, representatives of Empire State told us that Empire State recently instituted a
procedure whereby an applicant is required to complete a form, itemizing the economic loss, if
the amount of the estimated economic loss appears unusual. However, this only started recently,
and is done on a judgmental basis. Empire State management believes that the applicant’s
signature certifying the economic loss is sufficient.

Our non-representative selection of six completed applications indicated that one of the
applicants estimated the amount of the economic loss to be in the millions of dollars. Because
public funds are involved, we believe that, at a minimum, Empire State should require
applicants to at least provide detailed information explaining how the amount of their economic
loss was determined. We noted that one of the Senate Reports7 that accompanied the various
public laws pertaining to the CDBG disaster funds gives guidance to HUD regarding economic
losses. The Senate Report recommends that when calculating business interruption losses, the
manual prepared by Price Waterhouse Coopers for the Cerro Grande fire claims should be used.
We observed that claimants for the Cerro Grande fire had to provide detailed explanations
explaining how they estimated their losses.

Further, we discussed this issue with Empire State’s internal auditors. The internal auditors
explained that they plan to verify the amount of the economic loss identified by the applicant on
the itemized form mentioned above. We explained to the internal auditors that Empire State just
started this procedure, and that it is only used on a judgmental basis. The internal auditors said
that where the itemized form is not available, they plan to contact the applicant and ask for the
information.


6
  New York City’s Lower Manhattan Business Recovery Grant and New York State’s Retail Recovery
Grant
7
  Senate Report 107-109, page 206
                                                4
On May 20, 2002, we met with HUD officials at HUD Headquarters, Washington, D.C., to
discuss these issues. At the meeting we learned that on May 16, 2002, Empire State revised its
application regarding the Business Recovery Grant Program. The new application requires
applicants to provide the details as to how their economic losses were determined. We followed
up at the two locations in New York City where an applicant can apply for a grant and
determined that the new application is being utilized. In this regard, the new application should
eliminate our concern regarding the economic loss amount for future applicants. However, we
believe that Empire State should request the same data from the 4100 applicants who have
already received a Business Recovery Grant so that the application process is consistent.

                                    ACTION NEEDED

We recommend that you:

1A.    Consult with appropriate SBA officials and determine whether duplication of benefits
       could exist if the benefits provided by a Business Recovery Grant and a SBA loan are in
       excess of the amount of an applicant’s net economic loss. This may necessitate a legal
       interpretation of the alternative requirements pertaining to duplication of benefits. If you
       determine that duplicate benefits could exist, notify Empire State of the determination
       and direct that its processing procedures be revised to request applicants to provide
       appropriate details on SBA assistance.

1B.    Ensure that Empire State is complying with Congressional intent and the Federal Register
       notices dated January 28, and February 7, 2002 (as referred to above) regarding the
       reduction of CDBG disaster grants by any other public benefits that an applicant may
       have received.

1C.    Require Empire State to obtain from the applicants who have already received a Business
       Recovery Grant, the details as to how the amount of their estimated economic loss was
       determined.

Within 30 days please provide us, for each recommendation in this report, a status report on: (1)
the corrective action taken; (2) the proposed corrective action and the date to be completed; or
(3) why action is considered unnecessary. Also, please furnish us copies of any issued
correspondence or directives related to this audit.

Should you or you staff have any questions, please contact me or William H. Rooney, Assistant
District Inspector General for Audit, at (212) 264-8000, extension 3976.




                                                5
                                                  APPENDIX
DISTRIBUTION                                     (Page 1 of 2)
Frances A. Walton, Chief Financial Officer
Empire State Development Corporation
633 Third Avenue
New York, New York 10017

Sharon Pinkerton, Senior Advisor
Subcommittee on Criminal Justice
Drug Policy & Human Resources
B373 Rayburn Housing Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Stanley Czerwinski, Director
Housing & Telecommunications Issues
US General Accounting Division Office
441 G Street, NW, Room 2T23
Washington, DC 20503

Steve Redburn, Chief Housing Branch
Office of Management and Budget
725 17th Street, NW, Room 9226
New Executive Office Building
Washington, DC 20503

The Honorable Fred Thompson
Ranking Member
Committee on Governmental Affairs
340 Dirksen Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Joseph Lieberman
Chairman
Committee on Governmental Affairs
706 Hart Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Dan Burton
Chairman
Committee on Government Reform
2185 Rayburn Building
House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
                                             6
                                             APPENDIX
                                            (Page 2 of 2)

The Honorable Henry A. Waxman
Ranking Member
Committee on Governmental Reform
2204 Rayburn Building
House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515


Andy Cochran
House Committee on Financial Services
2129 Rayburn, H.O.B
Washington, DC 20515

Clinton C. Jones, Senior Counsel
Committee on Financial Services
U.S. House of Representatives
B303 Rayburn H.O.B.
Washington, DC 20515




                                        7