NJ lawmakers re-introduce anti-Sandy clawback bill in Congress
WASHINGTON - Superstorm-strapped property owners, whose payouts from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) resulted from the government's miscalculations, would not be subject to "clawbacks," under a measure re-introduced today by shore Congressman Frank Pallone (D-6) and Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ).
The lawmakers claim that FEMA has dunned more than 750 storm survivors for nearly $3,000,000. The original legislation, in 2015, responded to letters that FEMA sent to recipients from whom repayment was sought.
The bill contains the circumstances to government-based errors, and does not protect people who defrauded FEMA for payments.
The legislators pointed out that FEMA recoupment letter recipients often learned that they would be subjected to lawsuits, negative reports for credit agencies, property liens and ineligibility for future disaster aid. Many, they said, had spent the grants for repairs and no longer had means to repay.
"Homeowners still struggling to rebuild from the devastation of Sandy should not be forced to repay grants that were awarded because of mistakes made by FEMA," Pallone said in prepared comments.
"While I understand the importance of reducing waste, fraud, and abuse in the system, the efforts to do so should not be made on the back end of this process in a way that punishes disaster victims with an unaffordable bill. I'm proud to join Senator Menendez in reintroducing this legislation that will protect New Jersey homeowners from FEMA's misguided efforts."
Menendez said, "Disaster victims should never have to pay for someone else's mistake. These families have suffered enough, many are barely holding on financially-emotionally-and can't afford to pay back money they thought all along was rightfully theirs to use towards their recovery."
The lawmakers noted that similar actions following Hurricane Katrina resulted in a comparable federal law.
More from the Shore: