NJ Spotlight, Mar. 5, 2014
By Matt Katz
Credit: Governor’s Office/Tim Larsen
Gov. Chris Christie offered Wednesday a detailed, step-by-step analysis of why Sandy aid has been slow getting to victims — and why it is largely the federal government’s fault, not his.
At a town hall meeting in Berkeley Township in Ocean County on the Jersey Shore, Christie downgraded his assessment of how much money New Jersey will receive from the federal government. In May 2013, when federal first started flowing, Christie said the state would see as much as $25 billion; on Wednesday, a spokesman said New Jersey may get as little as $10 billion.
Christie made it clear Tuesday that the federal government has made it difficult for New Jersey to get the money he needs.
First, he said it took longer for Sandy victims to get federal aid than victims of any other disaster in American history. Second, he turned a criticism of the federal insurance program into a conservative call for smaller government.
And finally, he said, thanks to corruption in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, New Jersey faces daunting federal regulations in writing checks to Sandy victims.
"We’re the ones who have to deliver the news about the federal regulations; you’re the ones who have to comply with them," he said, striking a sympathetic tone that was evident throughout the town hall.
Reading off a sheet of paper, Christie listed the hurdles that audience members have had to go through to get money to fix their homes: From registering with FEMA, to proving primary residences, to documenting income levels, to getting environmental and historic reviews on properties, to hiring contractors, to putting money in escrow for the construction.
"That’s one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve steps," he said.
And yet, New Jersey is doing a far better job at distributing Sandy money than New York state or New York City, he claimed.
About a dozen protesters were outside the town hall, with signs blaming Christie for everything from failing to deliver Sandy aid to bridgegate.
Of the 10 questions, none asked about bridgegate, and the Sandy questions were informational and not confrontational.
The crowd appeared to be overwhelmingly Republican — his call to "elect a new president" after a question about Obamacare brought a standing ovation and the most resounding applause of the day.
A group of Sandy victims who wore black shirts to the event were not called on by the governor to ask a question.