By Lauren Wanko
“In the end, I think many of those members of Congress before they vote tomorrow have to think there but for the Grace of God go I and I don’t think what they want is a situation where Congress winds up having regions pitted against each other where if they don’t come through for New Jersey, New York and Connecticut now, this region then when there’s a disaster someplace else says, ‘Well you didn’t come through for us, why should we come through for you?'” Gov. Chris Christie said.
The reliably direct Christie didn’t hold back this morning when asked about the Sandy relief package, just a day before the House is scheduled to vote. The delay in federal dollars has sparked reactions from local leaders up and down the Jersey coast.
“I think what Congress is doing is a disgrace. The victims of Katrina had their funding within two weeks, the victim of Hurricane Ike had their money within three weeks. Here we are beyond two months and still waiting,” said Bradley Beach Mayor Gary Engelstad.
But Bradley Beach, like so many other shore communities, isn’t waiting to rebuild. The smell of sea salt and Christmas filled the air this morning as Christie stepped onto the beach to watch as contractors moved newly donated Christmas trees. Sandy ripped up the 20,000 trees that once lined the one-mile stretch of sand dunes in this Monmouth County community. So far workers have replanted about 1,000.
“No one is conceding the summer of 2013 to Sandy and you see the work that’s being done right here at Bradley Beach and emphasizes again the importance of the dune systems across the state,” Christie said.
Christie says all the work being done on the beach is critical in getting the shore back and ready for the summer season, adding it’s equally important to get businesses back on track.
“And that’s really important in terms of getting these dune systems done and letting people know the beaches are ready. If they know the beaches are ready, they’re gonna come and when they do, it’ll help these businesses reopen and thrive across the state,” Christie said.
Standing by the governor’s side this morning was Department of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Harold Wirths. The governor credited Wirths and his team for securing for a $15.6 million national emergency grant the day after Sandy to put residents back to work on the clean-up and rebuilding efforts.
“As of today, 428 people are now employed working on Sandy efforts in 11 hurricane impacted counties,” Christie said. “Another 650 unemployed residents are slated to be brought on in the coming weeks.”
It sounds as though the governor is going to have a very busy Memorial Day. Just last week he told crowds in Belmar he’d be back on their boardwalk to kick off the summer tourism season and today he told folks he’d be in Bradley Beach as well.