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Obama praises NJ, pledges support, during Christie conference call with local officials


YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Gov. Christie and President Obama teamed up again this afternoon, this time in a conference call with elected officials, during which the president praised both the governor and “the resilience of the residents of Jersey,” while pledging ongoing support for rebuilding the state in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Obama said he asked Christie to join in on today’s conference call so he could tell officials directly that the federal government will be “for you and with you until this gets resolved.”

The president also added Bergen to the list today of counties designated federal disaster areas, clearing the way for quick assistance.

“I want to be sure that you hear it from me that the whole country is determined to help Jersey come back even stronger,” Obama told the conference-call gathering of what Christie estimated were thousands of local, county, state and federal officials.

The National Guard is prepared to help if there are any public safety issues, including deterring crime or moving emergency service workers, the president said.

“In some cases it may be additional equipment that a local county or municipality might not have,” he said.

If anyone has additional needs that have yet to be addressed, the president said, they should call FEMA immediately, adding that he’s instructed his administration to find ways “not to say no.”

The president emphasized that officials and media get out information on how to get through and get prompt help. SEE: How to: Apply for FEMA assistance

“It’s important that residents get through right away,” Obama said. “That establishes registration eligibility.”

FEMA’s instructions are to get money out to those people without delay and to have inspections done without 24 to 48 hours of each emergency request, he said. In addition, the president said, various grants and loans have been freed up for local communities.

“As you’re talking to small business owners, know that there are resources are available and we want to make sure that you take every advantage of it,” Obama said.

Obama also said he “got to see the resilience of the residents of Jersey” during his visit yesterday.

“Michele and I want to express deepest sympathies for the loss of life,” the president said.

At the same time, he cited the bravery and commitment of first responders, in addition to “outstanding local leadership and, most importantly, citizens who care about their friends and their neighbors.”

Once again, he singled out Christie, who the president said has “really been 24/7 focused on this.”

Christie, in turn, said Obama’s support “has been unwavering and complete. We appreciate that very much.

“I can tell you that the buzz around the state today is incredibly positive” that Obama came to New Jersey and spent a considerable amount of time up close and personal with those affected by the storm, Christie said.

In turn, elected officials praised both men.

“Both of you are setting an example for New Jersey and for this entire country,” Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo told them.

Echoing concerns of public officials statewide, DiVincenzo said the biggest concern is fuel.

Christie said distribution sites are being set up for more than a million gallons of fuel being brought into New Jersey from elsewhere, both for generators and for vehicles.

Christie was scheduled for a 3 o’clock flyover to survey the damage in Moonachie and visit some shelters. He said he will provide updates during the visit.

He also had a message for all New Jerseyans: Don’t despair over gas or power. Utility workers are flocking to the state from all over the country.

“Our No. 1 obligation right now, besides keeping our facilities running, is to try to get power back on as fast as possible,” Christie said.

“We literally will have tens of thousands of workers in this state by close of business tomorrow to restore power” — so many, in fact, that temporary housing will have to be set up, he said ( SEE: ‘Tent city’ opening at Overpeck Park for out-of-state utility workers restoring power ).

“You’re going to see trucks from Alabama and Mississippi up here,” Christie said.

Virginia is sending 1,500 workers and Ohio 700 — Maine and Massachusetts are among the others, the governor said.

Those who can’t drive here fast enough will be picked up, along with their vehicles, by C-130 military transport planes, he said.

Other items:

  • New Jersey Natural Gas (NJNG) is shutting off the natural gas infrastructure that serves the hurricane-damaged barrier islands south of Point Pleasant Beach to Seaside Park, as well as Long Beach Island. About 28,000 people will be affected.
  • Christie emphasized that counties are responsible for sheltering citizens. “State shelters are going to close first. [They] were always the shelter of last resort.”
  • The outdoor water ban statewide continues. New Jerseyans are also being asked to decrease water use at home.
  • State health experts are available to answer questions about food and water safety and mold renewal. Dial 211 (24/7) or 1-866-234-0964 (weekdays: 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.; weekends: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.).


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