The state is developing plans for how and where to best allocate Hurricane Sandy relief aid, writing proposals for putting together lists for its various relevant agencies, from Housing and Urban Development to the Department of Transportation.
The money will come, Gov. Chris Christie told a crowd in Union Beach Tuesday, and it will be used to rebuild New Jersey and get residents back into their hurricane-ravaged homes.
Be patient, he said. The check hasn't been written yet.
Christie joined other local legislators in celebration after a $50.7 billion hurricane relief bill passed in a contentious U.S. House of Representatives in January before heading off to the U.S. Senate for approval and finally to President Barack Obama’s desk for a signature and adoption. It's not here, he said, but it will come soon.
“In the bill there are deadlines for when the money will flow,” Christie said. “Those deadlines have not passed yet.”
The State estimated that New Jersey suffered more than $37 billion in property damage following Hurricane Sandy’s late October arrival. Approximately 350,000 properties throughout the state were damaged or destroyed by the storm leaving anxious owners wondering when they’ll get the aid they’ve been promised.
As soon as the state gets the money, it will be put to work, Christie said.
In an effort to ensure that relief money is spent wisely, Christie said the sate would rely on transparency. There’s even talk in the state Legislature, he said, of developing a bill that would demand integrity spending.
"We’ll be very transparent about it. We certainly don’t want any of the money waster,” he said, adding, “We want everyone to see where the money is going. That’s to our advantage.”
Some municipalities throughout the state have received Public Assistance program funding through FEMA to help cover the cost of debris removal and emergency response, though many large projects at the municipal level have yet to receive federal assistance.
Residents, too, have been left out waiting for aid.
Currently, Christie said the state is hoping to use block grants and HUD to supplement the cost of elevating homes along the shore. With the state many residents now find themselves facing exorbitant flood insurance costs if they’re unable to elevate their homes. Residents with flood insurance are eligible for Increased Cost of Compliance funding to the tune of $30,000 to raise their homes, though in many cases that may not be enough.
The block grants could cover the shortfall between the $30,000 and the actual cost of home elevation, though how much would be available remains to be seen. Soon, Christie said, New Jersey’s residents will get what’s coming to them.
One thing Christie feels residents should no longer be patient for is claim payouts from the National Flood Insurance Program. According to data he said he received from the Department of Banking and Insurance, approximately 85 percent of non-flood related insurance claims related to Sandy have been paid out, an exception figure considering it’s been just three months since Sandy landed on New Jersey’s coastline. The same can’t be said for the NFIP.
Just 30 percent of flood insurance claims have been paid thus far in what Christie called a “disgrace.” While New Jersey waits for its share of Hurricane Sandy relief funding, the flood insurance program has already been bolstered with funding of its own. At the start of the New Year, Congress approved a measure allowing FEMA to borrow more than $9 billion to pay Sandy-related claims.
Yes, they’ve been busy, Christie acknowledge, but he chalked the delay up to people not doing their jobs correctly.
“We need to do something different now,” he said. “We need to be loud and public (about the delays).”