Federal funding for emergency repairs in Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties was made available Wednesday, as Gov. Chris Christie chastised Congress over possible delays in funding storm relief.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced in a news release that the funding was available to state and local governments — and certain nonprofit organizations — on a cost-sharing basis for repairs and replacement of facilities damaged during Hurricane Irene.
The announcement follows President Barack Obama’s earlier disaster declaration for New Jersey.
Individual assistance is available in Bergen, Essex, Morris, Passaic and Somerset counties. Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs and low-cost loans to cover uninsured or underinsured property losses, as well as other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster. Individual applications for assistance can be made at www.disasterassistance.gov or by calling 800-621-3362.
In Trenton, Christie let loose against Congress, saying he wouldn’t let a fight brewing in Washington over whether disaster aid needs to be offset by federal spending cuts hurt Hurricane Irene flood victims in his state.
“Our people are suffering now, and they need support now. And they (Congress) can all go down there and get back to work and figure out budget cuts later,” the Republican governor told a crowd in the flood-ravaged town of Lincoln Park.
FEMA has less than $800 million in its disaster coffers, and U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has said the House will require offsetting spending cuts to pay for aid.
Christie chastised Congress for playing games at a time when people need government assistance most.
Christie said that he doesn’t want to hear that offsetting budget cuts have to come before aid is distributed and that such a discussion isn’t appropriate in a time of need, such as in May, when a tornado ripped through Joplin, Mo., killing 160 people and damaging about 7,500 homes.
“Nobody was asking about offsetting budget cuts in Joplin,” the governor said.