DON'T MAKE SANDY VICTIMS RETURN AID, FEMA TOLD

In a recently released letter, members of the New Jersey congressional delegation recommended that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) stop telling homeowners who suffered losses as a result of Hurricane Sandy to send back money they mistakenly received from the government. FEMA has asserted that it is only trying to recover 2 percent of the total money given out, and is only collecting from 2 percent of recipients. Nevertheless, both U.S. senators and 10 of the state’s 12 U.S. representatives signed the letter that stated FEMA’s policy “goes against good conscience, encumbering honest Americans with a financial burden they cannot afford and threatening to hinder ongoing recovery efforts.”

FEMA has given more than $1.4 billion to 182,911 Hurricane Sandy victims in New Jersey and four other states. FEMA spokesman Rafael Lemaitre claims that the agency is “committed to being responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars and ensuring that eligible applicants receive the disaster assistance they need,” and further elaborated that federal law “requires FEMA and other federal agencies to recover improper payments.” However, the lawmakers assert that the overpayments at issue were not obtained fraudulently and the victims, financially stretched to their limits, should not have to repay funds that were put towards their recovery effort. U.S. Sens. Robert Menendez and Cory Booker, and U.S. Reps. Donald Norcross, Frank LoBiondo, Jon Runyan, Chris Smith, Leonard Lance, Rodney Frelinghuysen, Frank Pallone, Bill Pascrell Jr., Albio Sires and Rush Holt all signed the letter.