SEASIDE PARK - Gov. Chris Christie has pledged to use funds slated for Sandy recovery to pay for debris removal at the site of last week's boardwalk fire in Seaside Park, and has begun the process to get that money to those who need it.
Christie has promised $15 million in state aid already earmarked for Sandy recovery to businesses damaged by the fire. The state says the extra aid to clean up debris will help speed up the rebuilding process.
Victims of the massive fire that destroyed a portion of the Seaside Park boardwalk learned how to get the money needed to rebuild from representatives of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority and other agencies who met with them Monday.
The Seaside Heights Municipal Complex was opened to business owners and others affected by the fire to provide information about the recovery effort.
Seaside Heights Mayor Bill Akers says grants of up to $50,000 will be given to business owners. Special loans will also be available. "Anywhere up to a $5 million loan with no payments, no interest for two years," he says.
The co-owner of Seaside Steak House says he'll rebuild, state aid or not. "The steak house was in my heart. And I'd love to rebuild and hopefully I get the chance," says Corrado Spinosa.
Residents have already expressed opposition to the use of Sandy funds. "It's not a natural disaster. It's not Mother Nature," says Tracy Broderick, of Upper Saddle River. "It's tragic, but people have fire insurance and that's what should be used, not government money."
Crisis counselors were also deployed Monday afternoon as part of Christie's response to the devastating fire. They will also be available at the Seaside Heights Community Center at Bay and Hancock avenues from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday.
Laura Brower, the owner of Laura B’s Games of Chance, says nothing is more important to her than getting her business up and running again. Health experts say it's not uncommon for disaster victims to focus on physical recovery more than their mental well-being.
Akers says officials hope to have an answer about the cause of the fire "sooner rather than later."