Sandy’s victims are still in limbo with a ‘recovery’ of recovery funds

Joe Mangino believes he followed all the rules when applying for and accepting grants related to rebuilding his home after Super Hurricane Sandy.

But, despite returning home nearly 7 years ago, the Stafford resident can’t move on.

He and several hundred other Sandy victims remain in limbo with so-called clawbacks, in which they are forced by the government to repay all or part of the grant they had received to recover from the storm.

“While I’m home, I’m not whole,” Mangino told New Jersey lawmakers. “I feel like we are being held hostage.”

The overpaid funds were distributed in error or ended up being a duplication of funds taking into account other financial avenues available to residents affected by the storm. Either way, the residents who received them are on the hook, at least for now.

On May 9, the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee proposed legislation that would establish a simpler repayment process for residents and could eliminate these debts altogether for some homeowners.

“People have been living in a nightmare since Super Hurricane Sandy and just haven’t been able to see themselves unburdened by bureaucracy,” said Sen. Christopher Connors, R-Ocean, one of the sponsors of the measure.

Democratic Senator Troy Singleton is also a main sponsor.

Specifically, the bill creates more transparency in the clawback process and gives residents the ability to set up a five-year payment plan. In cases involving low- or moderate-income homeowners, by US government definitions, the amount of debt could be reduced or eliminated.

An Assembly version of the legislation awaits action from the Oversight, Reform and Federal Relations Committee.

New Jersey and federal lawmakers have some time to act on this issue, if they so choose. A spending bill signed by President Joe Biden in March 2022 provided a two-year deadline for repayment of disaster funds, meaning residents won’t have to start repayment until at least 2025.

Governor Phil Murphy’s administration announced a freeze on state recovery attempts in 2018.

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]

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