Six months ago today, Hurricane Sandy hit New York and New Jersey. To mark the recovery from the occasion, Housing and Urban Development Secretary* Shaun Donovan and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced another $1.8 billion in aid today.
The funds will go to for homeowners, renters and small businesses.
Aggie Roberts runs The Music Man, a singing ice cream shop in in the beach community, Lavallette, N.J. The Music Man is a mile from Seaside Heights, where some of the most dramatic scenes of the storm took place (think: the roller coaster that collapsed into the ocean).
"Six months ago today, four-and-a-half feet of water surrounded [the shop]," says Roberts. "We lost all of the contents in our building."
It's taken months of restoration. Roberts and his wife Josephine also live in Lavallette, and had significant property damage to their home. While getting ready for tourist season, they moved in with Josephine's parents.
The Music Man normally opens for the summer the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. This year is no different. There's even a countdown clock on The Music Man's website.
"We've made such strides... If we had to open tonight, I could, if I had product," Roberts says. "I'm kinda holding off with my product since I am an ice cream shop."
Roberts encourages tourists to return and support businesses like his. But despite rebuilt boardwalks and restoration of beaches up and down the state coastline, infrastructure may not yet be ready for visitors who make it their yearly ritual to come to the Shore.
"I was born and raised Jersey. We would save all year long to vacation for the two weeks out of the summer. A lot of people are the same. And a lot of those [rental] homes were destroyed," he says.
Many of those homes have not been rebuilt yet.
He's upbeat about the progress so far, in his town and throughout New Jersey.
"To say when we're going to be made whole? I'm happy to be opening."
*Correction: An earlier version of this story referred to Shaun Donovan as transportation secretary. Donovan is the Housing and Urban Development Secretary. The text has been corrected.