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NJ gets $1.8B from US for Sandy recovery

Bruce Shipkowski, Associated Press

SEA GIRT, N.J. (AP) -- New Jersey will receive the largest slice — about $1.83 billion — of the first major round of federal disaster relief funding for recovery efforts from Superstorm Sandy, Gov. Chris Christie announced Wednesday.

Christie said he wants to use the state's share to give grants to homeowners and businesses to cover the cost of rebuilding and resuming their work.

The state hopes to start getting money to people and businesses by the end of the month, Christie said after touring the Sea Girt boardwalk and a rebuilding site for dunes meant to protect the Jersey Shore town from Atlantic storms.

The funding will be distributed through the state Department of Community Affairs and the Economic Development Authority as Community Development Block Grants.

"Note that I said grants, not loans," Christie said. "The goal is to get people safely back into their homes as soon as possible, and not give them any more debt."

Christie said homeowners could use the money to rebuild homes or comply with new regulations, such as those that would require homes to be raised higher off the ground. He said businesses could also use the fund to restock their inventories.

The governor also said some of the money would also be used for an aggressive marketing program to make residents — and tourists — aware that "the Jersey Shore is open for business" this summer.

The overall plan is subject to approval from the federal Housing and Urban Development Department, which hopefully should come soon, officials said.

"I think the biggest issue here at the Shore in particular is getting homeowners back in their homes and getting businesses back open so that things can start moving and beating again here for the summer season," Christie said.

Christie has said the state sustained $37 billion in damage from the late-October storm.