Written by Patch Political Reporter Keith Brown
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono recently ripped into Gov. Chris Christie, saying the governor was more concerned about national exposure than helping residents still reeling from superstorm Sandy.
Buono met Wednesday in Neptune Township with a Shark River Hills couple whose home was gutted by the October storm and nine months later remains uninhabitable, partly due to lack of state aid money.Popular Stories
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Buono called on Christie to return $2 million paid to a politically connected public relations firm that produced, with federal money, the "Stronger than the Storm" series of television commercials touting the Shore’s recovery and prominently featuring Christie and his family.
The $2 million is the difference between the contract that was awarded and the bid of the losing firm.
"This governor has used $2 million in recovery funds not to go to victims of Sandy," Buono said. "But to secure a starring role in what is the equivalent of a campaign ad.’"
The Middlesex County state Senator spoke on the front lawn of the three-bedroom ranch home owned by John Lambert and Lee Ann Newland, a pair of public school music teachers.
The home, located half a block from the Shark River, was severely damaged by Sandy. It remains gutted, walls torn out and much of its flooring removed to gird against further mold. A sign on the front door warns that you enter at your own risk.
The couple’s flood insurance company disagrees with numerous contractors the couple has had examine the property who say the home is a total loss. After a battle, the company paid for partial damage, and cut a check for about half their $250,000 policy.
But that left Newland and Lambert with short more than $125,000 to make the necessary repairs and raise the home to the new standards set by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
They applied and were approved for a $150,000 state grant under the Homeowner Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation Program, a $600 million program.
But that program, the couple was told, ran out of money. They have been put on a wait list indefinitely, Lambert said.
They have continued to pay the mortgage on the house while staying in FEMA-provided temporary housing in Ocean Grove, Newland said.
"But I can’t keep throwing my hard-earned money down the drain," he said.
The couple's time in a temporary housing is running out in October. They’re not sure what they’re going to do. The home has been put up for sale.
"Basically it's the land and a free house," Lambert said.
It's a story Buono said she has heard across New Jersey.
"This is a governor who is putting his ego and his national ambition ahead of victims such as John and Lee Ann," Buono said. "John and Lee Ann need Gov. Christie to stand up and act like a leader."