POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Now That Sandy Aid Has Passed, Question Turns to Who Gets What

By Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron
NJ Today

A state badly in need of Sandy aid will have to wait a little while. According to U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg’s office, the governor’s office will have to send detailed applications to HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, the Obama administration’s Sandy overseer, for approval. Christie Press Secretary Michael Drewniak told us today, “It’s not coming in one check.”

“We don’t want to raise expectations,” Drewniak said. “How much of the $50 billion storm relief package is coming to New Jersey can’t be answered with specificity.”

Some will come through the U.S. Department of Transportation, Drewniak said. Some will come through the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) for small businesses. Some will come through the Department of Community Affairs for housing issues.

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We asked Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who lives in hard-hit Monmouth Beach, what her expectations are.

“I can tell you two things. First, the president hasn’t yet signed it as of me standing up here, although we’re watching it very carefully. The second is ‘not fast enough.’ My next door neighbor is a single mom with two kids. She hasn’t been in her house in 92 days. Her kids go to two different schools because the schools are still closed. So the answer to the question I think is very simple — not fast enough,” Guadagno said.

“Obviously we’re hoping it gets here as quickly as it can as the lieutenant governor said earlier. We want to get this money to the people. We want to make sure they get the help they need. But we also want to have an integrity monitor like other states have put in place — like New York has put in place –to make sure that none of the money is misappropriated,” Sweeney said.

FEMA estimates that it will funnel about $11 billion of the money to state homeowners, businesses and municipalities. It has already disbursed nearly $800 million before last night’s bill passage.

The Christie administration still has a request in to FEMA to cover up to 100 percent of the cleanup costs, but FEMA has not yet responded on that point.

Municipal budgets in affected areas will suffer and those towns are expected to look to the state for some kind of bailout. That raises a concern that money not get distributed based on any party affiliation.

“I can’t imagine anybody would really want to play games with this,” Sweeney said. I think a lot of the damage is well documented from county to county, from town to town, so it would be an enormous problem for anyone to try to play a game with it.”

This will probably be the largest single infusion of federal dollars in state history. How the Christie administration handles it will be a test in an election year.