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Sandy aid: Home buyouts? Competitions for cash? Officials think bold.

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The funds will be granted as Community Development Block Grants, the government’s version of a virtual blank check. Managed by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, these grants are among the most direct ways for government to award aid money and provide local officials immense freedom and flexibility in spending funds. All plans require federal approval, with the first aid checks to arrive in late spring.

“It is up to them to decide what the most important needs are,” HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said in a press conference Wednesday announcing the Sandy aid.

And oh, the plans they’ve cooked up!

Some of the most creative proposals are from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire entrepreneur who intends to use money from his city’s portion of Sandy aid to fund a bevy of contests. Mayor Bloomberg has often used contests as a way to seek out new ideas – such as designing micro-apartments.

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