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TRENTON — The first batch of congressionally-approved federal assistance for Sandy victims will directly help 20,000 homeowners, 5,000 renters and 10,000 business owners, according to a plan released by the Christie administration this afternoon.
Half of the $1.83 billion (with a 'b') is directed to low and moderate income households, as per federal guidelines. But thanks to a waiver issued by the Obama administration, $25 million that would normally be earmarked for housing and businesses may be redirected to a tourism marketing campaign to let Americans know the Jersey Shore is still open.
The 80-page plan, which can be found here, promises the creation of thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity. The money comes from the $50 billion allocation that Congress made to affected states in January after Christie, a Republican, publicly chastised Republican congressional leaders who were holding up the appropriations.
The plan was devised at a cost of $9.5 million by private consultants from Massachusetts-based CDM Smith, a global firm that has long done construction and consulting work for New Jersey governments and made significant contributions to local politicians.
Last year, the state of Texas removed CDM for its poor performance in helping the city of Galveston in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, but Christie officials have said that the company's duties in New Jersey are far different.
Specifically, money is allocated as follows:
The administration said the storm caused $3.8 billion in damage to 86,700 units in houses and apartments. Four out of every five dollars will go to the nine counties hit the hardest: Atlantic, Bergen, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean and Union.
Christie said last month that the grant program would be in effect by the end of March or early April, and he is now running up against that deadline.
After a seven-day comment period that begins tomorrow, the plan will go the federal Housing and Urban Development agency for final approval. The agency could take as long as 45 days to approve the plan and release the funds — although it has said it expects the review process will move much more quickly.