"When I needed my government — the people I voted for — they failed me," said Danielle Vaz, of Toms River, who brought her 4-year-old autistic son along to show how months of being displaced has severely affected them both.
Christie refused to send an administration representative to any of four post-Sandy hearings because, he said, the sessions were led by Democrats out to score political points. He did assign staff to monitor the hearings and follow-up with anyone who complained.
"I get the that fact that until any one particular person you speak to is back in their homes and their lives are back to normal, they are going to be incredibly frustrated and upset and, in some cases, distraught," he said. "I think most people, if you talk to them, would say we've done a good job. Not a perfect job, but a good job."
Since the first $1.8 billion in federal recovery aid was approved, New Jersey has set up 17 separate programs for homeowners, renters, small businesses, local governments, nonprofits and developers. Counselors and administrative staff who were rude or unhelpful have been fired, he said.
The largest homeowner aid program, which provides as much as $150,000 for reconstruction, repairs, to elevate a house or protect against future flooding, has been criticized for not making any payouts from a $600 million allocation. One hundred grant applications totaling $7.8 million in assistance were signed last week, and the administration expects 200 more to be finished within days. About 4,000 homeowners are expected to benefit eventually.
Asked about the delay, Christie said cumbersome federal requirements are responsible.
After Katrina, homeowners proved their losses and got their money, he said. Under the new rules, checks go directly to builders, so the jobs are being awarded through public bidding, slowing the process. Also, environmental and historical reviews are required for post-Sandy rebuilding of homes and businesses. Those reviews weren't required after Katrina.