oversight

The State of New Jersey Awarded Disaster Funds to Eligible Businesses for Eligible Expenses in Accordance With HUD and Federal Requirements

Published by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General on 2015-07-20.

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

   The State of New Jersey, Trenton, NJ
       Community Development Block Grant Disaster
      Recovery-Funded Grants and Forgivable Loans to
                Small Businesses Program




Office of Audit, Region 3      Audit Report Number: 2015-PH-1004
Philadelphia, PA                                     July 20, 2015
To:            Marion M. McFadden, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Grant Programs, DG
               //signed//
From:          David E. Kasperowicz, Regional Inspector General for Audit, Philadelphia
               Region, 3AGA
Subject:       The State of New Jersey Awarded Disaster Funds to Eligible Businesses for
               Eligible Expenses in Accordance With HUD and Federal Requirements



Attached is the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Office of Inspector
General’s (OIG) final results of our review of the State of New Jersey’s Community
Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery-funded Grants and Forgivable Loans to Small
Businesses program.

HUD Handbook 2000.06, REV-4, sets specific timeframes for management decisions on
recommended corrective actions. For each recommendation without a management decision,
please respond and provide status reports in accordance with the HUD Handbook. Please furnish
us copies of any correspondence or directives issued because of the audit.

The Inspector General Act, Title 5 United States Code, section 8M, requires that OIG post its
publicly available reports on the OIG Web site. Accordingly, this report will be posted at
http://www.hudoig.gov.
If you have any questions or comments about this report, please do not hesitate to call me at 215-
430-6730.
                    Audit Report Number: 2015-PH-1004
                    Date: July 20, 2015

                    The State of New Jersey Awarded Disaster Funds to Eligible Businesses for
                    Eligible Expenses in Accordance With HUD and Federal Requirements




Highlights

What We Audited and Why
We audited the State of New Jersey’s Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery-
funded Grants and Forgivable Loans to Small Businesses program. We conducted the audit
because the program was one of the largest funded economic revitalization programs in the
State’s action plan and because the State had disbursed more than 37 percent of the funds
allocated for the program as of September 2014. Our objective was to determine whether the
State awarded grants and loans to eligible businesses in accordance with U.S. Department of
Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Federal requirements.

What We Found
The State awarded disaster funds to eligible small businesses for eligible expenses in accordance
with applicable HUD and Federal requirements. The State’s written policies and procedures
were comprehensive in nature, and it adequately documented eligibility for the businesses and
expenses reviewed.

What We Recommend
This report contains no recommendations.
Table of Contents
Background and Objective......................................................................................3

Results of Audit ........................................................................................................5
         Finding: The State Awarded Disaster Funds to Eligible Businesses for Eligible
         Expenses in Accordance With HUD and Federal Requirements ................................. 5

Scope and Methodology ...........................................................................................6

Internal Controls ......................................................................................................9

Appendix .................................................................................................................10
         A. Auditee Comments and OIG’s Evaluation .............................................................. 10




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Background and Objective
On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy made landfall near Atlantic City, NJ. The storm caused
unprecedented damage to New Jersey’s housing, business, infrastructure, health, social service,
and environmental sectors. On October 30, 2012, President Obama declared all 21 New Jersey
counties major disaster areas. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
identified the following nine counties as New Jersey’s most impacted areas: Atlantic, Bergen,
Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, and Union.

Through the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013, 1 Congress made available $16 billion in
Community Development Block Grant funds for necessary expenses related to disaster relief,
long-term recovery, restoration of infrastructure and housing, and economic revitalization. In
accordance with the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act of 1974,
these disaster relief funds were to be used in the most impacted and distressed areas affected by
Hurricane Sandy and other declared major disaster events that occurred during calendar years
2011, 2012, and 2013.

On March 5, 2013, HUD issued a Federal Register notice, 2 which advised the public of the initial
allocation of $5.4 billion in Block Grant funds appropriated by the Disaster Relief
Appropriations Act for the purpose of assisting recovery in the most impacted and distressed
areas declared a major disaster due to Hurricane Sandy. 3 HUD awarded the State of New Jersey
$1.8 billion from this initial allocation of funds. On April 29, 2013, HUD approved the State’s
action plan. The action plan identified the purpose of the State’s allocation, including criteria for
eligibility, and how its uses addressed long-term recovery needs. On May 13, 2013, HUD
approved a grant agreement that obligated more than $1 billion in funding from the $1.8 billion
allocation. The Disaster Relief Act required the State to spend obligated funds within 2 years of
the date of obligation.

The governor of New Jersey designated the State’s Department of Community Affairs as the
responsible entity for administrating its Disaster Recovery grant. The Department of
Community Affairs entered into a subrecipient agreement with the State’s Economic
Development Authority to administer the Grants and Forgivable Loans to Small Businesses
program. The Economic Development Authority is a component unit of the State government.

The State established the Grants and Forgivable Loans to Small Businesses program for the
purpose of economic revitalization. While the State initially planned to provide grants and
forgivable loans, it had only made grants under the program as of September 2014. The program


1
  Public Law 113-2, dated January 29, 2013
2
  78 FR 14330, dated March 5, 2013
3
  Areas impacted by Hurricane Sandy included New York City, New York State, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Maryland.




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provided grants of up to $50,000 to eligible small businesses that sustained physical damage
from Hurricane Sandy. Eligible uses of funds included costs related to rehabilitation, new
construction, equipment, inventory, mitigation, refinancing, flood insurance, and working
capital. If an eligible business had more than one location, it could receive up to $50,000 per
impacted location but no more than $250,000 total.

The State initially allocated $260 million to the program. However, on January 8, 2014, HUD
approved a substantial amendment to the State’s action plan, which allowed the State to reduce
the amount allocated to $100 million. The State requested the change because its analysis of the
demand for the program showed that $100 million was sufficient to address the remaining needs.
As of September 2014, the State had incurred total costs of $52.5 million related to the program,
which included $41.3 million in grant funds awarded to small businesses. The other program
costs included administrative and delivery costs of $11.2 million.

The Federal Register notice 4 allowed preaward costs to be reimbursable as long as the costs were
incurred after the date of the storm. In addition, HUD Community Planning and Development
Notices 13-05, dated July 30, 2013, and 14-017, dated November 14, 2014, allowed grantees to
reimburse businesses for costs incurred after the date of the storm but before the date of the
State’s grant agreement.

Our objective was to determine whether the State awarded grants and loans to eligible businesses
in accordance with HUD and Federal requirements.




4
    78 FR 14342, dated March 5, 2013




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Results of Audit

Finding: The State Awarded Disaster Funds to Eligible Businesses
for Eligible Expenses in Accordance With HUD and Federal
Requirements
The State developed and implemented comprehensive written policies and procedures for its
Grants and Forgivable Loans to Small Businesses program and adequately maintained
documentation to demonstrate eligibility for the businesses and expenses reviewed.

The State Developed Comprehensive Policies and Procedures
The State developed comprehensive written policies and procedures that complied with
applicable HUD and Federal requirements. It established baseline eligibility requirements for
both businesses and expenses. For example, each applicant was required to (1) be a small
business that sustained a minimum of $5,000 in physical damages, not including perishable or
consumable inventory; (2) be registered to do business in the State and up to date on all State tax
filings; (3) be financially feasible; (4) demonstrate a need for assistance based on projected
revenue and expenses; and (5) meet a national objective, such as providing benefit to low- and
moderate-income families or meeting an urgent need. Further, the State’s policies required funds
to be used for eligible expenses, which included costs related to rehabilitation, new construction,
equipment and inventory obtained after the date of the storm, mitigation, refinancing, flood
insurance, and working capital. To demonstrate eligibility, the State’s policy required extensive
documentation, including tax returns, bank statements, canceled checks, invoices, receipts, and
payroll records. The State’s policy also required it to check for duplication of benefits, using
documentation related to insurance settlements and other disaster funding.

The State Followed Its Policies and Procedures
The State followed its policies and procedures for the five applicant files reviewed. It awarded
the 5 applicants $409,989 in grant funds, and the related files contained more than 300 pages of
documentation on average. For each of the five files reviewed, the State awarded and disbursed
disaster funds to an eligible small business for eligible expenses in accordance with applicable
requirements.

Conclusion
The State developed policies and procedures for its program that were comprehensive in nature
and complied with applicable HUD and Federal requirements. It followed its policies and
procedures and adequately maintained documentation to demonstrate eligibility for the
businesses and expenses reviewed.




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Scope and Methodology
We conducted the audit from October 2014 through April 2015 at the State’s office located at 36
West State Street, Trenton, NJ, and our office located in Philadelphia, PA. The audit covered the
period May 2013 through September 2014.

To accomplish our objective, we reviewed

       •   Relevant background information;
       •   Applicable regulations, HUD notices, and the State’s policies and procedures;
       •   The Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, Public Law 113-2;
       •   The State’s Block Grant Disaster Recovery action plan as approved by HUD on
           April 29, 2013, along with aproved action plan amendments;
       •   The funding agreement between HUD and the State, dated May 13, 2013;
       •   The subrecipient agreement between the State’s Department of Community Affairs
           and its Economic Development Authority, dated May 21, 2013, along with an
           amendedment, dated August 8, 2014;
       •   Organizational charts for the State’s Department of Community Affairs and its
           Economic Development Authority;
       •   Applicants’ file information from the State’s computer data system, which included
           hundreds of pages of documentation assocated with each applicant;
       •   A State monitoring report, issued August 2014; and
       •   HUD mangagement reviews, dated September 13, 2013, June 10, 2014, and
           January 8, 2015.

We conducted interviews with responsible employees of the State and HUD staff located in Fort
Worth, TX.

To achieve our audit objective, we relied in part on computer-processed data. We used the data to
select a sample of approved applications that were awarded grants for review. Although we did not
perform a detailed assessment of the reliability of the data, we performed a minimal level of testing
and found the data to be adequate for our purposes.

As of September 2014, the State had awarded $41.3 million and disbursed $33.5 million in grant
funds related to 839 approved applications. The amount of the awards for the 839 businesses
ranged from $3,412 to $250,000. After sorting the businesses by the amount of award in
descending order, we selected every 15th approved application until we had chosen 5 businesses
for review. The five businesses selected for review were awarded $409,989 in grant funds, with
individual awards that ranged from $50,000 to $150,000. The files for the businesses were
comprehensive in nature, with more than 300 pages of documentation on average to demonstrate
the eligibility of the business and expenses.




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We reviewed the State’s Stronger New Jersey Business Grant Program Guidelines and
Procedures (dated March 24, 2014), including policy clarifications (with various dates). We also
reviewed its Stronger New Jersey Business Grant Review Guide (dated June 5, 2014). The
State’s process for approving a grant involved at least nine critical areas. The following
paragraphs explain examples of the documentation the State maintained to demonstrate its
compliance with the nine critical areas reviewed.

   1. Threshold eligibility: Documentation in the files demonstrated that each business (1) was
      operational on October 29, 2012 (using tax returns), (2) had $5,000 in physical damages
      from Hurricane Sandy (using contractor estimates, insurance payments or claim reports,
      invoices and canceled checks, and photographs of the damage), (3) met the annual
      revenue and liquid asset thresholds (using tax returns and bank statements), (4) had a
      valid Federal employee identification number, (5) was not debarred, (6) was registered to
      do business in the State and was in good standing, and (7) was up to date on all State tax
      filings.

   2. Business eligibility: The files contained business tax returns to show that the business
      was not a home-based business, a casino or gambling facility, a privately owned
      recreational facility, or a municipal facility. In addition, the files contained photographs
      of the business location and evidence that that the State reviewed the business’ Web site
      and performed Google searches on the business name and owners.

   3. Business needs and eligible assistance: The files contained documentation on projected
      revenue and expenditures based on prior tax returns, along with additional documentation
      and explanations provided by the businesses when requested by the State.

   4. Use of funds: The files contained documentation supporting the expense category and
      showing that the expenses were incurred from the date of the storm forward. The
      documentation included payroll records, canceled checks, bank statements, credit card
      statements, and wire transfers. The five businesses reviewed used the grant funds for
      working capital.

   5. Other disaster funding: The files contained applications (for the State’s program) from
      each business in which it self-reported whether it had received insurance settlements or
      funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The files showed that the
      State also reviewed tax returns to determine whether there were insurance expenses and
      the nature of the expenses. For SBA, the files contained a spreadsheet provided by the
      agency, which showed whether the businesses had applied for, been approved for, and
      received SBA assistance. For assistance from the Federal Emergency Management
      Agency (FEMA), the files contained screenshots and printouts from FEMA’s Web site
      showing whether the addresses and buildings associated with the business had flood
      insurance (current or expired) and had any relevant claims. In cases in which the State’s
      review of the application, tax returns, SBA spreadsheet, and FEMA Web site indicated
      possible assistance, the State obtained source documents. For example, files contained e-




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       mails from the insurance companies (and copies of policy documents) and copies of the
       SBA loan documents.

   6. Duplication of benefits calculation: The files showed that the State appropriately reduced
      the amount of eligible funds when there was a duplication of benefits. Examples of
      duplication of benefits included business interruption insurance proceeds, contents
      insurance proceeds, and other working capital assistance.

   7. Underwriting: The files showed that the State had determined that the business had
      demonstrated the need for assistance, the project costs were reasonable and realistic for
      recovery, and the business was financially feasible and appeared likely to have sufficient
      capital to recover. To support the underwriting analysis and calculations, the files
      contained the prior year tax returns and other documents.

   8. National objective: The State funded the five businesses as an urgent need. The files
      contained documentation to demonstrate that the businesses were located in two of the
      nine counties most impacted by Hurricane Sandy.

   9. Cost reasonableness: The files showed that the State had performed an analysis to
      determine whether the costs incurred by the businesses were fair and reasonable. For
      example, to review the reasonableness of rents, the State compared them to rents of
      similar businesses in the area. Further, the State was able to provide proof of payments to
      show that the costs had been paid by the businesses. This proof included receipts and
      payroll records.

We conducted the audit in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.
Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate
evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit
objective(s). We believe that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings
and conclusions based on our audit objective.




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Internal Controls
Internal control is a process adopted by those charged with governance and management,
designed to provide reasonable assurance about the achievement of the organization’s mission,
goals, and objectives with regard to
•   Effectiveness and efficiency of operations,
•   Reliability of financial reporting, and
•   Compliance with applicable laws and regulations.
Internal controls comprise the plans, policies, methods, and procedures used to meet the
organization’s mission, goals, and objectives. Internal controls include the processes and
procedures for planning, organizing, directing, and controlling program operations as well as the
systems for measuring, reporting, and monitoring program performance.

Relevant Internal Controls
We determined that the following internal controls were relevant to our audit objective:

•   Validity and reliability of data – Policies and procedures that management has implemented
    to reasonably ensure that valid and reliable data are obtained, maintained, and fairly
    disclosed in reports.

•   Compliance with applicable laws and regulations – Policies and procedures that management
    has implemented to reasonably ensure that resource use is consistent with laws and
    regulations.

We assessed the relevant controls identified above.

A deficiency in internal control exists when the design or operation of a control does not allow
management or employees, in the normal course of performing their assigned functions, the
reasonable opportunity to prevent, detect, or correct (1) impairments to effectiveness or
efficiency of operations, (2) misstatements in financial or performance information, or (3)
violations of laws and regulations on a timely basis.

We evaluated internal controls related to the audit objective in accordance with generally
accepted government auditing standards. Our evaluation of internal controls was not designed to
provide assurance regarding the effectiveness of the internal control structure as a whole.
Accordingly, we do not express an opinion on the effectiveness of the State’s internal control.




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Appendix

Appendix A
             Auditee Comments and OIG’s Evaluation


Ref to OIG    Auditee Comments
Evaluation




                              10
             Auditee Comments and OIG’s Evaluation


Ref to OIG    Auditee Comments
Evaluation




Comment 1




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                         OIG Evaluation of Auditee Comments


Comment 1   As discussed with the State during the exit conference, our audits are generally
            focused on transactions, events, and records for a specific period in time. This
            audit covered the period May 2013 through September 2014. Our audit objective
            was to determine whether the State awarded grants and loans to eligible
            businesses in accordance with HUD and Federal requirements during our audit
            period. For the five grants that we reviewed, we concluded that the State
            adequately maintained documentation to demonstrate eligibility for the businesses
            and expenses. The State’s program is ongoing. We reserve the right to initiate
            future audits of the State’s program.




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