After meeting with business owners in Long Branch yesterday, Governor Chris Christie told the press that the businesses’ biggest frustration is the amount of phone calls they get asking if they are open. “They’re happy that at least the phone is ringing,” said Christie, emphasizing that the perception that the Shore is not open has to be impacted.
Christie said that there would be a multi-media ad campaign launch by the Economic Development Authority next month to promote Jersey Shore Tourism. It has not been determined if Christie will appear in the aid. “I haven’t been asked. If I’m asked and I think it is appropriate I will consider it,” the governor said in response to a reporter who asked if he would appear in the state funded ad during the gubernatorial campaign season.
The governor said that EDA would be announcing a working capital grant program for businesses impacted by Superstorm Sandy in May and that the Department of Community Affairs will be administering a grant program for homeowners who can apply for up to $150,000 in federal money, over and above what they have already received from FEMA and their insurance companies to rebuild their homes.
Money for businesses will becoming faster and with less strings attached than aid for homeowners, due to the delay in federal funding for homeowner grants and due to federal regulations that require environmental reviews by the U.S EPA and NJ DEP before homeowners using federal money can get building permits. The homeowner grants will be in the form of progress payments, not checks written to the residents. “After Katrina people (Louisiana residents) took the money and moved to Texas,” the governor said, “we’re not going to do that here.”
Christie noted that residents using their own money to rebuild have been given a pass on environmental reviews as the NJDEP has been issuing permits by rule, saving homeowners significant time and money for professional fees. That option is not available when federal funds are being used.
New FEMA maps coming
Christie said that he expects that FEMA will be issuing new and less aggressive Flood Elevations Maps in mid-May, which should require homeowners who need to raise their homes for flood insurance purposes to lift them to a lower elevation or in some cases, avoid raising them all together. The governor explained that the first advisory map that FEMA issued after Superstorm Sandy were based upon the assumption that all land impact by Sandy was assumed to be flat, without buidlings, dunes, tress, etc. The coming maps will account for the actual topography of the impacted areas.
Christie said the property tax credits he has called for in the coming budget will cost $183 million dollars in the first year and questioned whether the Democratic legislature, which approved the cuts for in the current budget, subject to actual vs projected revenue, are really serious about giving New Jersey resident tax relief. He said, that is the tax cut is not approved before he will make it an issue in the gubernatorial campaign and that if he wins the election, he wants tax cuts approved the day after election day.