Sandy victims still waiting
More than two years after Superstorm Sandy, thousands of New Jersey residents displaced by it are still waiting for grant money to help them recover and get back into their homes. The long wait continues, even for those who finished all of the required paperwork months ago.
Some of them are pointing a finger of blame at Gov. Chris Christie's administration, but Thursday night, on Townsquare Media's Ask the Governor program, Christie said everything possible is being done to speed up the process, and he shares in the frustration they feel.
"It's not my personality to be blaming other people for things, but federal restrictions are slowing down Sandy aid," Christie said. "Some of this stuff is delayed significantly because of the regulations that this administration has put into place post-Katrina. There are certain requirements the federal government has from a paperwork perspective and a timing perspective-- environmental reviews and a number of other things that we just can't avoid."
Christie said it's important for people to keep things in perspective, noting a conversation he had with the mayor of Biloxi, Mississippi during the summer. Despite "great grades" for the city's handling of its recovery from Hurricane Katrina, Christie said, "It took them eight years to rebuild their housing, without a lot of the regulations that were put in after that."
Nevertheless, Christie insisted important progress is being made in New Jersey.
"You used to have to wait for the money till you incurred the cost," he said. "Now what we're doing with folks is, once you sign your grant paper, you get 50 percent of the money upfront. We had to go to the federal government to get a waiver to do that. Every way we can to try to speed this up, we're doing it."
The governor acknowledged that the process was not handled perfectly from the beginning.
"It's the first time we ever did this, but we've gotten much better," he said. "And we now know which regulations to ask to get waived."