Christie pegs New Jersey's Sandy damage at $29.4 billion

On Nov. 3, Gov. Christie comforts Kerri Berean in Little Ferry, N.J., after Sandy caused a tidal surge on the Hackensack River that overtook a natural berm protecting the town.
On Nov. 3, Gov. Christie comforts Kerri Berean in Little Ferry, N.J., after Sandy caused a tidal surge on the Hackensack River that overtook a natural berm protecting the town. (DAVID GARD / The Star-Ledger, pool)
Posted: November 25, 2012

Gov. Christie estimates that Sandy cost New Jersey $29.4 billion in damage and economic losses, from washed-out roadways and waterlogged homes to manning storm shelters.

"This preliminary number is based on the best available data, field observations, and geographical mapping," Christie said in a statement released Friday evening. "I will spare no effort and waste no time to rebuild and restore our tourism industry, our transportation and utilities infrastructure, and the lives of our citizens for the long term."

The estimate is considered a crucial step for Christie, who recently consulted with governors from Louisiana and Mississippi about working with the federal government after Hurricane Katrina, as he makes his case for federal funds to aid in rebuilding New Jersey's storm-ravaged coastline and cover losses incurred during widespread power outages.

How much of that money New Jersey will see is hotly debated. Republican Rep. Chris Smith warned this week that while the maximum federal assistance for an individual is $31,900, the average following last year's Hurricane Irene was $8,000.

Christie's office would not answer questions about the estimate.

Two weeks ago, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a damage estimate for his state of $33 billion.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has $8.1 million available in disaster relief funding, but how that money will be apportioned to states and for what purpose has yet to be determined, a FEMA spokeswoman said Friday.

"At this time, we are confident that this is sufficient funds to cover our immediate response and recovery," she wrote in an e-mail.

New Jersey's House and Senate delegations already are pushing to increase funding.

"The people of New Jersey can rely on the congressional delegation to work with the Obama administration, Gov. Christie, and our colleagues to deliver the funding necessary for New Jersey families, communities, and businesses to recover and rebuild so that we're stronger than ever before," U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a Democrat, said in a statement.

Rebuilding in New Jersey is expected to be lengthy, with some officials already questioning whether some of the state's tourism-dependent Shore towns will be restored by Memorial Day.

For municipalities already struggling with shrinking tax bases, coming up with the 25 percent match for federal funds could be impossible, Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. said this week.

Christie warned that the estimate could increase as state Treasury officials look at factors including losses incurred by the tourism sector next summer and population shifts.


Contact James Osborne at 856-779-3876 or jaosborne@phillynews.com and follow on Twitter @osborneja.

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