HIGHLANDS - Federal officials have approved New Jersey's plans to spend $1.8 billion in grants to rebuild after Superstorm Sandy.
U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan made the announcement Monday with Gov. Chris Christie in Highlands, six months after the storm struck.
Officials say $600 million of the money will go to Christie's grant program. Home and business owners can apply through the program for up to $150,000 to pay for damage not covered by insurance or FEMA.
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"Today is the beginning of us getting to phase two of return to normalcy," Christie said at a late-morning news conference. "For the overwhelming majority of New Jerseyans, their life is back to normal. For those who have not been able to leave it behind, I can still see the emotion on their faces, the sense of loss they still carry close to the surface."
Christie says the application process will be thorough. Applicants will have to document their damages and compare that to money they have already received.
The governor asks that residents and business owners be patient with the process. Businesses can begin applying this week, and homeowners can submit applications in May. All applicants must be registered with FEMA by Wednesday night in order to be eligible for grant money. You can register by calling 1-800-621-FEMA.
Gov. Christie will hold a town hall meeting Tuesday on Long Beach Island to further explain the program and answer questions. The meeting will be at 3:15 p.m. at St. Francis of Assisi Community Center on Long Beach Boulevard.
To hear Gov. Christie's full remarks on the grant money, watch the clip to the left or click News 12 Extra on Optimum TV channel 612.