New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) first town hall of his second term on Thursday was consumed by Superstorm Sandy relief fund issues, with no mention of the bridge scandal.
A few hundred constituents attended the meeting, many of whom pressed the governor on why they haven’t received financial aid yet to fix damage from the October 2012 storm.
The governor's answer was to criticize the Obama administration for not being more engaged with his state’s recovery after Sandy.
“I just want to go home,” said one woman, among many who desperately asked Christie for help.
“If the checkbook was at my disposal … and not have the federal government involved, you’d probably be home already,” Christie replied.
The state’s mediation program handles people's unresolved insurance claims.
Christie embraced President Obama following the storm when they toured the aftermath together.
The governor said some of “the biggest arguments I had with the Obama administration” include federal flood insurance not covering all the damage, secondary homeowners not being helped and there being no available grants to reimburse repairs.
“I went to the president personally and asked for secondary homeowners to be covered,” Christie said. “I made that argument in the Oval Office as hard as I could.”
In January 2013, Obama signed the $50.5 billion Sandy relief fund bill to help storm victims. The measure has hurt many secondary homeowners who aren’t eligible for much aid.
“That’s why the federal government shouldn’t run an insurance business,” Christie said. “Your only option left is to sue the federal government.”
One audience member replied, “Where do I sign up?”
The question and answer session didn't veer into questions over the George Washington Bridge scandal, which has consumed the governor's second term. Christie has maintained he knew nothing about directives from former aides to close lanes to Fort Lee, N.J., as political retribution.
In the fallout from the bridge scandal last month, the mayor of Hoboken, N.J., accused Christie of threatening to withhold Sandy relief aid if she didn’t sign off on a real estate development project in her town.
“I don't know what they were trying to get in the 'Bridgegate,' but I do know what they're trying to get in Hoboken; they're holding our Sandy funds hostage in order to get pushed through and expedite the Rockefeller project," Democrat Dawn Zimmer said on CNN in January.
Christie spokesman Colin Reed rejected Zimmer’s accusation and said Hoboken has already received nearly $70 million worth of funding in the recovery effort.
“The claim that Hoboken has been denied any Sandy relief funds is false,” Reed said. “Hoboken has not been denied on a single grant application for recovery efforts under the current programs for which they are eligible.”