Chris Christie’s $28 billion hurricane conundrum

Recovery from Hurricane Sandy still has an unmet cost of $28 billion. Trenton might be on the hook for it. Photo: AP

WASHINGTON, October 28, 2013 — The Garden State’s cost of recovery from last year’s Hurricane Sandy disaster has quickly surpassed the resources readily available, and now New Jersey storm experts believe that another $28 billion will be needed to get New Jersey’s coast back in business.

In a recent study by Rutgers University, New Jersey’s slow recovery from last year’s storm has left millions of south jersey resident’s homeless, revealing that significant progress has yet to be made post Sandy. Hurricane Sandy’s fiscal recovery efforts still has an unmet miscellaneous cost of approximately $24 billion dollars towards the shore’s re-development. Residents are likely to look to Trenton to recover the huge lost wages and residential costs associated with the storm.

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The study detailed that more than 100,000 people have lost employment as a result of the damages incurred by Hurricane Sandy. Those families considered lower income have actually received less financial assistance from the Federal government due to a lack of understanding about qualifications and required procedures. New Jersey, unlike New York, finds itself in a bit of a conundrum as the State is already re-building from its fragile infrastructure. Now the State is being tasked with coming up with the funds to rebuild, but what about future storms and the cost they too will bear?

Many of the New Jersey populations affected by Sandy were already struggling economically even before the storm hit. More than half the 1.3 million households directly impacted by the Hurricane were living below the poverty line before the storm, and the Hurricane delivered the coup de grace. Low-income families suffered more than 50 percent of total property damages, but only received 30 percent of the recovery aid assistance.  To make matters worse, many of these families on New Jersey’s coast were faced with limited resources for even obtaining flood insurance in these high need districts.

Once again, as we witnessed eight years ago in New Orleans, when poverty, economics and natural disasters combine, it can be a terrible circumstance for whosoever sits in power. In New Jersey, that is Gov. Christie. Victims of Sandy are still feeling the tight economic crunch as just a fraction of the State’s revenue is being received from property taxes and municipal aid. The estimates of damage caused by the storm includes private property, state infrastructure and utility damages. Christie commented on Friday, “the estimate will be refined in the future to include impact on the next tourist seasons, real estate values and population shifts.”

The facts that we know are that Hurricane Sandy ultimately resulted in more than 100 deaths about 80 billion in destructive cost, slightly short of the destructive cost from Hurricane Katrina. In the end, Sandy’s economic legacy still isn’t subject to easy answers, and Trenton may be burdended with task of coming up with the reminder of the bill.

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