The deadline for New Jersey residents affected by Hurricane Sandy to apply for assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been extended to May 1.

The extensions cover FEMA assistance along with homeowner, renter and business registration with the Small Business Administration. But the extension also lengthens the window for residents who many not have initially applied for federal help but plan to apply in order to be eligible for rebuilding grants through long term recovery programs.

“It is vitally important for people to know that the FEMA individual assistance registration process is essential to receiving any type of federal disaster assistance — including grant assistance for homeowners and renters as outlined in our (Community Development Block Grant) disaster relief action plan,” Gov. Chris Christie said in a news release.

Some of the grants through federal disaster aid require that homeowners have registered with FEMA, according to the state plan for how it will spend its first pool of $1.8 billion.

Christie has requested FEMA extend the application deadline since the end of January. As of Thursday night, 259,373 people have contacted FEMA in New Jersey, with the agency making $379.4 million in payments. In Atlantic County, 21,999 people have contacted the agency, 6,356 in Cape May County, 54,364 in Ocean County and 601 people in Cumberland County.

To register, go to www.fema.gov or call 800-621-3362.