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Christie: Don't Wait to Elevate, Rebuild; Grant Money on the Way

Governor: Don't listen to 'dopes' saying to hold off.

Gov. Chris Christie took a stand this week against public officials and community leaders calling on residents to wait for potential changes to Federal Emergency Management Agency flood maps before elevating or rebuilding their homes in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

Christie, speaking in Lavallette Tuesday, said the state's adoption of FEMA's advisory base flood elevation maps last month will ensure residents build smarter and stronger, and avoid the consequences that came in Sandy's storm surge.

"Fight away, I'm fighting too, but don't tell people not to rebuild their homes if they want to," said Christie. "Don't we want people in safer homes and more resilient homes?"

Some have called on residents to wait for FEMA to put out revised, preliminary maps this summer before they raise their homes, since those maps may rezone certain neighborhoods and scale back the type of construction or height needed to comply in order to receive affordable flood insurance rates.

But Christie said waiting could cost residents the chance to score grants that could help pay for house raising, at least for primary residents.

The governor said Tuesday that a grant program funded by the federal government could be in place at the state level as early as late March.

"We want people to make a commitment to stay in these communities," he said, and residents deserve a "helping hand."

The grants will come in the form of Community Development Block Grants.

One of the largest ever single allocations of CDBG funds – $17 billion – was included in the federal Sandy relief package passed by congress and signed by President Barack Obama.

Christie said the CDBG funding will be for primary residents only.

Brick Mayor Stephen C. Acropolis said in his meetings with officials, future rounds of funding, such as FEMA hazard mitigation grants, could be available for secondary homeowners.

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