Port Monmouth, New Jersey (CNN) – Gov. Chris Christie slammed the federal government and the Obama administration on Thursday for its handling of Superstorm Sandy relief funds at a town hall in Port Monmouth, New Jersey.
The Republican governor in particular took aim at the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the red tape involved in filing claims with the National Flood Insurance Program, at one point repeating his line that the agency is "the new F-word."
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Christie took unfiltered questions from some of the hundreds of people who filled a Veterans of Foreign Wars post for the 90 minute Q&A session. A few audience members quizzed him on topics other than the recovery from the 2012 storm that ravaged the Jersey Shore.
But no one asked him about the investigations surrounding last year's orchestrated access lane closures at the George Washington Bridge or allegations that his administration made Sandy recovery funds in Hoboken contingent on the Democratic mayor's approval of a real estate developer's project.
The governor returned to a familiar script, one that he employed while running for re-election last year. Christie said that the recovery from Sandy will take years, not months, but it would be going more quickly if it weren't for the federal government's stringent requirements.
Several people painfully talked about being homeless for more than a year after the storm and being turned down for grants meant to get people back into their homes. An empathetic Christie said the government will not be able to restore things completely back to normal for everyone. While the state sustained more than $30 billion in damage, according to government figures, Christie said the federal government is only providing between $17 billion and $20 billion in recovery funds.
Christie faulted Democrats in Congress for the slow movement of funds, saying additional oversight requirements were to blame for the drawn-out process. New Jersey is preparing to allocate a second round of recovery founds – $1.4 billion – to homeowners and communities hurt by Sandy.
While few in the crowd directed their anger and frustration at Christie, one man did call into question the privatization of the process that determines who receives grants and how much homeowners are entitled to. In a tense confrontation he repeatedly asked the governor why his administration hired the Louisiana firm Hammerman and Gainer to process grant applications and then fired the company after paying them $50 million.
While not directly responding to the question, Christie said it makes more sense to hire contractors to do what is essentially a temporary job than hire new government employees at a greater cost to the state.
Responding to a woman who said her home in Brick Township was demolished after Sandy and all she needed was $50,000 to go back home, Christie said if the checkbook were in his hands she'd be back in her house already.
While the audience was largely friendly to Christie there were some who were clearly not happy with the governor. One Sandy victim held a sign that read "Christie Resign" throughout the entire event. She and others who have been vocally critical of Christie's handling of the Sandy recovery effort were not called on to ask any questions.
This was Christie's 110th public town hall meeting. It was the first time he took questions from New Jersey residents face-to-face since members of his administration were tied to the bridge scandal. At the end of January, he took calls from listeners during a monthly radio show.