New Jersey Governor Chris Christie may stand accused of using Sandy money as both carrot and stick in his political battles, but that’s not stopping him from asking the federal government for more help. The Star-Ledger reported Wednesday that Christie sent a letter to President Obama asking FEMA to extend its housing program.
The program, the paper reports, would not directly bring money into the state, but instead cost the Federal government thousands in maintaining temporary homes for displaced victims. The housing, located in the Central Jersey facility of Fort Monmouth, currently houses 49 families but takes care of 80 at its height. Most of these families are homeowners who have not been able to rebuild their homes or find other permanent housing.
Their temporary help through FEMA is expected to expire on April 1, but Christie is asking President Obama to extend that time through September. Christie argues, according to the Ledger, that such housing is a pressing need to ensure “our hardest hit residents can continue to receive much needed financial and direct housing assistance until their homes are repaired or they can find more permanent housing.”
Many of those residents have not been able to move out of temporary housing because the statewide direct funding programs have been too slow. The Ledger notes specifically that the grant program, which could provide residents that qualify up to $150,000 in aid, has been too slow to get many New Jerseyans back on their feet. Speaking to some residents of the Fort Monmouth housing complex, the Asbury Park Press found that many are still waiting on those grants, terrified that, should they not be received in time, they will be homeless.
This month has raised many questions surrounding Governor Christie and has explicitly challenged the notion that Christie has used federal Sandy funding wisely. At worst, Christie has used Sandy funds to grease the palms of would-be allies at the expense of those still stuck in complexes like Fort Monmouth, hoping to rely on President Obama to fund their temporary homes while Christie sorts out other uses for the relief money, like building a senior complex for an allied mayor in a town not affected by Sandy.
The senior complex in Belleville, a town in Essex County not particularly close to any shore, had been planned years before Hurricane Sandy, but received $6 million in Sandy relief aid, according to the Star-Ledger. The paper’s editorial board railed furiously against this injustice, particularly when towns like Hoboken, which sits below sea level on the Hudson River, may have received less funding than necessary because Mayor Dawn Zimmer did not want to approve a real estate project linked to Christie cronies.
Chrisie is also being audited by the federal government for potentially misusing Hurricane Sandy funds to promote himself during last year’s gubernatorial campaign. Christie granted a contract to a pricey advertising firm to create the “Stronger than the Storm” ads meant to entice tourists back to the Jersey Shore last year. The ads featured him and his family prominently, so much so that many wondered whether they were promoting the shore or its governor.
Now Christie is asking President Obama to make taxpayers nationwide shoulder more of the costs of keeping Sandy victims off the street who could have returned to their homes months ago if provided with adequate grant money to rebuild. To not grant the extension would cause even more economic turmoil in a part of the state – the least economically solvent state in the nation – seemingly permanently ravaged by this natural disaster. To grant it would at least not put more money in Christie’s coffers, only cost the federal government what it takes to maintain these makeshift homes. However, two years after such a devastating disaster, the fact that people so afflicted they would be homeless without the federal government have not had their applications for aid processed raises many questions as to who controlled that money and what, if not to help these people, was deemed a more noble and expedient cause.