AROUND NJ

HUD Secretary Says First Batch of Sandy Aid Will Focus on Homeowners, Small Businesses

By Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron
NJ Today

Mayor Dina Long of Sea Bright escorted the governor and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan into her firehouse and called Gov. Chris Christie her inspiration. Donovan was in New York yesterday and New Jersey today announcing the first $5 billion worth of grant money to the region for storm recovery.

“This first chunk of this money we expect to largely be focused on homeowners and small businesses,” Donovan said. There may be some infrastructure, a few other things that get done, but the primary focus is going to be if the homeowner has got their insurance and FEMA dollars, FEMA’s limited to $32,000, this money can help fill those gaps for homeowners to be able to get back in their homes.”

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While it took three months for Congress to pass the aid package, Donovan said President Barack Obama wants the money released as quickly as possible.

“The law said we had to get that money out in 60 days. We did it in one-tenth that time, the fastest we’ve ever made an allocation of that funding,” Donovan said.

Sea Bright suffered significant damage from Hurricane Sandy.

“The secretary was walking up and down the streets and he said he can’t believe how horrible things are and I said, man it looks great now,” Christie said.

Donovan, who was put in charge of Sandy recovery by the president, said the $5 billion released this week is one-third of the $16 billion in community development block grant money that he’ll be dispensing. That type of funding has the greatest amount of flexibility although the state will still have to submit plans for how it wants to distribute the money.

Donovan said he’ll work hard to restore the Jersey Shore and praised the governor as someone who ignored party labels and just keeps fighting.

“That’s what Chris Christie has done every single day and I will tell you I’m going to be here every single day fighting with you, Gov. Christie, to make sure we help Sea Bright and all of New Jersey come back as quickly as possible,” Donovan said. “Thank you for your leadership.”

Christie returned the compliment all the way around.

“There is no manual for this to teach you how to deal with this, not for a mayor, not for a governor and not for a HUD secretary,” Christie said

This is the third day in a row Christie has done an event in a hard hit shore town. He has said Sandy erased the blackboard. His schedule seems to reflect that sense of priorities.