As governor, Christie’s first responsibility is to the 8.8 million residents of New Jersey. As of Wednesday, more than 2 million homes and businesses did not have electricity. Many people lacked running water. About 6,000 required shelter. While local utilities tirelessly work to restore service, with tremendous support from power companies around the country, New Jersey residents look to state and local governments for help with things they can’t do for themselves.
Federal disaster assistance under the Stafford Act largely comes later — especially during the rebuilding stages — and will continue for years, but Christie knows it would do his constituents a great disservice to poke his finger in the president’s eye.
In the early stages after a large-scale disaster, a president mostly encourages state and local leaders. But even in the first few days, the federal government can help with certain resources.
After Katrina, which is still the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, the Defense Department provided Mississippi with several major infusions of diesel fuel that were critical to keeping first-responder and security vehicles moving. It’s likely the Obama administration has provided otherwise unavailable resources to New Jersey and the other affected states.
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