Hurricane Sandy was among one of the most costly hurricanes in U.S. history. The storm hit in 2012, striking New York and New Jersey coasts, hitting some of the most densely populated areas in the United States, and eventually killing 280 people in the U.S. and Caribbean. Thousands of people received aid from the government after Superstorm Sandy slammed the east coast in 2012. Reportedly, some of those people may now be forced to give a portion or even all of that vital financial aid back almost two years after the disaster hit.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is now out to recover overpayments that were provided to citizens and organizations affected by Hurricane Sandy. The overpayments are known as recoupment, and it involves inadvertent violations of eligibility rules or missing documentation, rather than outright fraud.
According to the Associated Press, as of early September FEMA has asked around 850 of the aid recipients to return a collective $5.8 million. At this time, nearly 3,600 cases are still under review. Reportedly, the average refund asked for is $6,987, with roughly half the households reporting an annual gross income of $30,000 or less. Forcing people to repay the government will place a huge financial burden on many who are still working hard to recover from the Superstorm years after it ravaged the east coast.
“For most people, the money is long gone and long ago spent on storm recovery,” said Ann Dibble, director of the New York Legal Assistance Group’s Storm Response Unit. Dibble’s division has been helping about a dozen families fight a FEMA backlash. Overall, about $53 million in payments are under review, which places many people at a great financial risk.
This same refund situation happened after Katrina, when the agency asked over 90,000 households for repayments, many of which congress then authorized to wave. “They have a lot more controls in place,” said John Kelly, the Department of Homeland Security’s assistant inspector general for emergency management oversight. For Kelly, and many other U.S. officials, a financial oversight like this is simply unacceptable, and only adds more of a burden to those affected by the deadly hurricane.