Gov. Chris Christie said he told President Barack Obama that there needs to be a grant program available through FEMA so businesses, especially the ones on the Jersey Shore, can start the rebuilding process faster following superstorm Sandy.
As a result of that conversation, Christie said Obama has asked Congress for $2 billion in grants to be available for business rebuilding. He hopes Congress approves the request.’
Currently, FEMA provides only small business loans.
While he’s waiting for the federal funds, the state is taking its own step by creating three grant programs through the Economic Development Authority. The programs – called Recover, Skill and Opportunity programs – provide funds for training and business retention.
In all, the grant program costs $26 million.
Christie said the state leaders have taken a pragmatic approach toward addressing the residents’ and businesses’ needs following the superstorm, adding that partisan politics has no room in what is going to be a long rebuilding process.
In his speech before the N.J. Business and Industry Association, Christie mentioned other initiatives:
*Creation of the Office of Recovery and Rebuilding. Such an office was created after receiving advice from several governors who had to proverbially weather the storm
*A $15.6 million Labor Department program creating temporary jobs involving debris removal. Christie said the clean-up “is happening quickly.”
Christie also said that while Small Business Administration loans can be helpful, they are not enough to get the businesses reopened, he said.
“These are folks who live from season to season,” he said. “They already have debt that they carry.”
Ideally, Christie said, such Shore businesses as restaurants, liquor stores, Laundromats, and pizzerias can use grants, which would be between $25,000 and $75,000 each to reopen and hire back people.
Christie said those businesses are not only the lifeblood of a town’s economy but are also what make the Jersey Shore distinctive.
“If we don’t get those up and running not only will we be diminished economically, we’ll be diminished culturally.”