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Grant to Aid Sandy Victims' Financial Planning

April 9, 2013 (The Record, Bergen County, NJ) New Jersey first lady Mary Pat Christie announced Monday a $600,000 grant to assist an organization that will provide financial planning for superstorm Sandy victims.

The grant is part of $3.7 million awarded last week by the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Recovery Fund, which Christie founded in the aftermath of the storm to raise money for rebuilding from residents and the private sector.

The fund, which has raised more than $33 million, is expected to announce a total of $10 million in grants this month, she said at a news conference in Brick Township.

The money will go to Operation Hope, a Los Angeles-based financial literacy organization. It will be establishing six locations across New Jersey to help connect storm victims with a network of volunteers to assist them in making rebuilding decisions and getting their finances in order.

"People really didn't know how to put together their lives together financially," said Christie, who has put her own full-time job at a Wall Street hedge fund temporarily on hold to focus on the rebuilding effort.

She leads the relief fund with Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi and former Democratic Sen. Bill Bradley.

The recovery effort has received donations from several major companies operating in New Jersey, including AT&T and Hess Corp.

The fund made its first grant, of $1 million, in February to six committees throughout the state that are focused on long-term recovery efforts. The Bergen County committee is helping fund a recovery information center at the First Presbyterian Church in Moonachie.

The fund itself has received scrutiny because of its close ties to several of Governor Christie's political allies.

The board includes William Palatucci, a close friend and political adviser to Christie.

In addition, a staff member at Mercury Public Affairs LLC has volunteered to provide free marketing to the relief fund. The firm counts Michael DuHaime as a partner.

He is the governor's campaign spokesman and served as a member of Christie's transition team.

An ethics watchdog who helped craft New Jersey's pay-to-play law has said that donations to the charity could allow donors to evade the state's campaign finance restrictions.

The Christies have said any concern about the organization is unfounded, pointing to the bipartisan composition of its board.

(C) 2013 The Record, Bergen County, NJ. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved

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