February 21, 2014
By Marc Bussanich
Middletown, NJ—Governor Chris Christie participated in his first town hall-style event since he won reelection last year, and since the George Washington Bridge lane closures scandal erupted. He heard heart-breaking stories from residents and told them that the federal government’s getting into the insurance business is to blame for the slow recovery. Video
Christie spoke confidently during the town hall as Middletown residents, one of the hardest-hit communities along the Jersey Shore, asked him for help 16 months after SuperStorm Sandy.
The governor empathized with the residents but said his hands are tied due to federal regulations that are intended to deter wasteful spending.
Christie and his administration have asked the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to waive requirements that people applying for recovery money stop work on their homes when they apply. If residents do rebuilding work on their homes from the date they apply until the date they are approved, they would be ineligible for reimbursement from the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation program.
Debbie Fortier, a Brick, NJ resident who still hasn’t been able to rebuild her home, told Christie she’s offended that there is a $50,000 grant program for residents who suffered no damage to purchase homes in her neighborhood. Christie said he wasn’t aware of the program.
He did say that her predicament is representative of the lack of money available from the feds because of strict requirements.
“We’re waiting to be approved by the federal government for $1.4 billion, [but] we’ve asked for another $735 million to go towards homeowners like you,” said Christie.
But Fortier interrupted him by saying she can’t afford to wait any longer.
Christie said he doesn’t want to wait either but he’s limited by federal requirements. He told her that his administration has been pleading with the federal government to waive HUD’s requirements for reimbursement.
Fortier exhibited frustration.
“My name is Debbie from Brick and I just want to go home,” Fortier said.
Jessica Sickler, also of Middletown, told the governor she’s had to hire an attorney to fight her flood insurance company to cover the damage to her home.
Christie used her experience as reason to attack the federal government and the Federal Emergency Management Agency for getting into the flood insurance business.
“The entire flood insurance business in this country has been taken over by the federal government. It’s called the National Flood Insurance [Program]. There should be a new “F” word. FEMA runs the NFIP.”
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