Democratic gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono is hoping to tap into voters' frustrations with the slow pace of Sandy recovery by blasting Gov. Chris Christie for the bureaucracy and lack of transparency she says surround the state's major grant programs.
"It's an injustice," said Buono, speaking at a campaign event Friday afternoon at the house of a displaced homeowner in Keansburg, N.J. "These people have been through so much and they just need some answers. That's all they're asking for, a little fairness and for their governor to stand up for them."
Elena Pagonis and her partner Joe McLaughlin have been staying with family since two feet of water flooded their home during the storm. The couple said they applied for the state's Rehabilitation, Reconstruction, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) program, which offers grants up to $150,000, but have not heard back about the state of their application, despite repeated attempts to follow up.
"I knew it was going to be a slow going process, but that doesn't make it any easier," said Pagonis. "Life has to restart. I'm 48 years old. I can't just sit and wait and wait and wait."
A statement distributed by Gov. Christie's campaign called the move a "shameful and disrespectful politicization of Superstorm Sandy recovery efforts."
"We all know there is more work to do for our families, but it's sad to see Barbara Buono turning those recovery efforts that have brought our state together into campaign stops for political point scoring," Keansburg Mayor Arthur Boden said in the statement.
A New York Times editorial this week criticized Gov. Christie for not releasing grant data on Sandy affordable housing aid. The Fair Share Housing Center says low-income residents in the state haven't gotten the help they need and has sued the Christie administration for information about who is getting housing aid.