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Richard Bethea, Ship Bottom’s administrator and finance officer, took exception to “pork” that he said was being tacked on to the aid bill — a charge also made by some GOP opponents of the bill. “There are things being spent that don’t belong there,” Bethea said. “It has to happen quickly. It’s important to everybody at all levels. If businesses are up and running, the government collects taxes.”
Brecher, who founded the Long Beach Island Business Alliance, said his discussions with mayors, city council members and other local businesses indicated “a real, real concern” that costs were becoming too large for the townships. Businesses, he said, were “spending with the assumption that FEMA’s going to reimburse them.” “All types of things haven’t occurred yet, and if they don’t have money for things like fixing storm sewers, if beaches aren’t cleaned up, people aren’t going to come down. They’ll think it’s unsafe, ugly, that utilities are not working right.”
The threat of new storms further complicates the cleanup efforts. Before the New Year, a winter storm hit Long Beach Island, causing areas that had just been cleaned to flood again. “Storm sewers were filled with debris and sand and are not draining right,” Brecher said. “We had 14 inches of water under our house.”
Instead of waiting months for the possibility of federal aid, local leaders elsewhere have taken a proactive approach to helping community businesses. Thirty-five miles north, in Lakewood, N.J., the Lakewood Development Corporation set aside $1.5 million for an emergency disaster recovery program for the downtown area’s mostly Jewish- and Latino-owned stores. Volunteers went door to door to survey the damage to local businesses and encouraged storeowners to apply.
“From our perspective, the point was to get the funds to those who were affected most so that they can get back on their feet quickly,” Rabbi Moshe Zev Weisberg, the development corporation’s chairman, wrote in an email to the Forward. “The small businesses we assisted were our friend[s] and neighbors, as well as our partners in a healthy local economy.”
Contact Seth Berkman at email@example.com.