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Christie announces $57M in aid for Sandy victims

LITTLE FERRY, N.J. (AP) -- Though a year has passed since Superstorm Sandy wiped portions of New Jersey off the map and left tens of thousands without basic necessities, no one should be fooled into thinking that life has returned to normal for everyone, Gov. Chris Christie said Tuesday as he announced another grant program to help residents continue recovery.

"No one said everything would be fixed in a year," Christie told a group assembled at a recently opened Family Success Center. "A lot of folks find it hard to believe things aren't back to normal if they don't live in an area that was as severely affected as this one."

Several thousand homes and businesses were damaged in the neighboring towns of Little Ferry, Moonachie and Carlstadt, including about 4,200 in Little Ferry alone. Sandy's tidal surge pushed the Hackensack River over its banks and a series of earthen berms on the night of Oct. 29, sending four and five feet of water into some areas.

The grant program is aimed at working families who were displaced or whose homes suffered damage, and at people who were left unemployed or underemployed by the storm's effects and need help with expenses. The money is in the form of a federal Social Services Block Grant and will be administered by New Jersey's Department of Human Services through county social services boards.

Households can receive up to $15,000 in direct payments or vouchers for expenses such as mortgage or rent, utility payments and replacing furniture and appliances.

Storm-affected families in all 21 counties are eligible to apply.

"This is a really important program for folks who are still suffering," Christie said. "It will help people bridge the gap during difficult times."

Christie noted that, given current weather conditions, this Halloween will mark the first one in three years that he hasn't had to call off, counting Sandy last year and a rare October snowstorm the year before. He said he hoped this Halloween would mark the beginning of a year in which the state would see a full recovery from the storm.