Sandy Funding is Just The Beginning For 9 NJ Counties [VIDEO/AUDIO]
Announcing the $1.8 billion in federal grants headed to New Jersey for recovery from Superstorm Sandy, state and federal government officials pledged additional help down the road.
The initial installment, approved on the six-month anniversary of Sandy's landfall in New Jersey, is part of the more than $60 billion cleared by Congress earlier this year for several states affected by the storm.
"This is not all the Community Development Block Grant money we have for the state of New Jersey," said U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan. "This is the first piece of New Jersey's plan."
Donovan and Governor Chris Christie met with residents and business owners in Highlands, which had more than 1,200 downtown homes affected by water during Sandy.
Donovan said the initial round of funding can be used to make adjustments for future installments, based on residents' and businesses' needs as they emerge. He assured New Jerseyans that if they fail to benefit from the $1.83 billion, there will be more opportunities in the future. The first round primarily focuses on homeowners, renters and businesses that are in urgent need of financial assistance to recover.
Governor Christie echoed the message that this is "phase one" of New Jersey's return to normalcy.
"We're not here to take a victory lap because we know that we haven't achieved victory yet," Christie said. "For the overwhelming majority of New Jerseyans, their life is back to normal. For those who have not been able to leave it behind, I can still see the emotion on their faces, the sense of loss they still carry close to the surface."
Nine New Jersey counties, the ones hit hardest by Sandy, can benefit from the federal funding - Atlantic, Bergen, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean and Union. Much of the emphasis on New Jersey's recovery has been focused on the shore, but inland residents and businesses were devastated as well.
"We are very focused on the fact that this has not just happened at the Jersey shore," Christie added. "We are going to focus resources on all the affected areas to make sure that folks get their unmet needs taken care of."
The mayors of Hoboken and Sayreville were on hand for Christie's announcement Monday. The Governor recently announced plans to buy out a number of flood-prone homes in Middlesex County, and he was on hand last week for a $100,000 donation to repair storm damage to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hudson County.
Christie said no one in the state should feel forgotten in the aftermath of Sandy, due to his presence in towns all over New Jersey, not only along the coast.