FEMA increases aid to New Jersey for Sandy recovery

McClatchy Washington BureauJune 26, 2013 

— The Federal Emergency Management Agency will increase aid to New Jersey towns struck hard by Hurricane Sandy in October.

FEMA said Wednesday it will increase the federal contribution from 75 percent to 90 percent of the cost for projects ranging from debris removal to infrastructure repair under the FEMA Public Assistance Grant Program.

“This is great news for New Jersey and something we’ve been aggressively working to achieve over the last eight months,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said in a statement. “This increased funding from the federal government will go a long way as our residents and communities continue rebuilding from Sandy.”

New Jersey has received more than $550 million in public assistance grants from FEMA since Hurricane Sandy devastated the state’s shoreline. The funding increase has been allowed because disaster aid numbers passed a pre-determined threshold, FEMA officials said.

“When federal disaster aid to a state meets or exceeds a set amount per state resident – currently $133 – federal regulations allow for the president to authorize an increase to 90 percent,” Gracia Szczech, FEMA’s federal coordinating officer, said in a statement.

The increase is not automatic once state funding crosses this red line. Only when relief efforts tip this scale, said FEMA officials, can governors request the increase from the White House. Wednesday’s announcement only applies to New Jersey federal aid, but FEMA public assistance in New York, which also sustained massive damage from Sandy, was granted the higher level of federal contributions in May after requests from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The New Jersey increase was authorized by President Barack Obama after requests from Christie.

Obama toured the shore with Christie on May 28 to see recovery efforts, as the two men from different parties again displayed the warm relationship they developed when the federal government rushed aid to the state in the immediate aftermath of the storm and Christie openly praised the response. That praise, coming in the heat of the Obama re-election campaign, drew criticism from some of Christie’s fellow Republicans, who said it needlessly helped Obama in a close contest.

Christie lauded Obama again Wednesday.

“I am grateful for the continued bipartisan cooperation from the White House and our congressional delegation and will continue working across the aisle with leaders on all levels of government until our state is fully restored,” he said.

Email:awatkins@mcclatchydc.com; twitter @alimariewatkins

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