$1.8 billion on its way to N.J. for Sandy reconstruction

    The federal government has approved New Jersey’s plans to spend $1.8 billion in federal grants on rebuilding and recovery from Sandy.

    Appearing Monday at the Highlands with Gov. Chris Christie, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan said two-thirds of the money will be used for grants to help homeowners rebuild and elevate their homes.

    “For a family that’s sleeping on a couch at a relative’s place for the last six month, what this announcement means is that they have hope of getting back in their home very soon,” Donovan said.

    After crowding into an apartment for half a year, Toms River resident Margaret Quinn and her family were thrilled to hear the news.

    While looking forward to getting back in her home, she said she is  frustrated about the time it’s taking to get federal grant money to elevate the house.

    “I want to move forward but my hands are tied, and I’m being paralyzed because I’m waiting for the state to pull through for me,” Quinn said. “So hopefully things can start moving. I just wish it happened a little sooner, but I will accept anything that they’re saying right now and start the process to continue to heal.”

    The application process for homeowners will begin next month, Christie said.

    Residents will have to verify their damage and indicate the insurance money they received as well as any money they got from FEMA.

    “This is a grant program to meet unmet needs,” he said. “So we’re going to need to see what insurance monies you’ve gotten, what other money you’ve gotten from FEMA, and verification of your damages because we’re not going to have a situation like we’ve had in previous disasters, at least we’re going to try, to make sure that people aren’t ripping us off.”

    A list of approved contractors will be available; after homeowners accept a bid, the state will pay the contractor directly, Christie said.

    Not a problem, Quinn said.

    “I personally don’t want the money. I want to lift my house,” she said. “So absolutely, as along as it’s a reputable contractor, I have no problem securing a contractor to lift my house.”

    The governor says that will make sure the work is done in the state instead of issuing checks to people who might take the money and move elsewhere.

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