A New Opening:
We have a new opportunity to push for RREM clawback forgiveness at the Federal Level – where the problem started in the first place.
A man named David C. Woll has been nominated to be Assistant Secretary of HUD (currently he’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Office of Community Planning and Development.). AND! Thanks to a push from Senator Menendez, at his nomination hearing, he agreed to work with New Jersey on ending the nightmare of clawbacks for Sandy families. WE have the receipts! Check out the video here:
We want to send a clear message to Woll and have 1,000 signatures on his desk on his first day, which should be sometime at the end of January.
What’s a clawback?
Superstorm Sandy landed on New Jersey’s shores on Oct 29, 2012 and it has taken many people years to rebuild and after 7 years there are almost 800 people still not home who are in the state grant program, RREM.
During the Christie administration the issue with RREM clawbacks started to surface. People who were home were being closed out of the RREM program and were told they needed to return money to the state because of an “over disbursement of funds” and/or a “duplication of benefits.” There was no explanation on why and no appeal process. At that time people were getting letters saying they had to repay their clawback within three years! This issue continued without resolution throughout Governor Christie’s administration.
After Governor Murphy was elected into office and made aware of the problems Sandy survivors were having with the clawbacks, Governor Murphy announced on October 29, 2018 that he put a temporary freeze on all repayments of the RREM clawbacks in the state of NJ. This does not mean the funding is not owed, it only means you do not have to pay it back until further notice. This temporary freeze still holds today.
While a freeze is much better than owing money back right now – we want RREM clawback forgiveness and reduction. This is a broken disaster recovery system we’ve had to work to survive, why are we, disaster survivors, being asked to pay for it?
Here are a few quotes from members about why clawback forgiveness matters to them:
“We thought surviving Superstorm Sandy and the flood that followed was going to be our biggest challenge. Then we entered into the RREM program to elevate our home. We navigated through the construction, and even got through the close out process without any “major” issues, until we received a letter a few months after our final inspection stating that we owed the State of NJ $33,385.58 due to “duplication of benefits”. We have been dealing with this “clawback” nightmare for the past several years. Truthfully, this “man-made” disaster is starting to prove worse than the actual trauma of Sandy.” – Barbara Z.
“I moved back into my house in April 2014. Everything was going well. I followed all the necessary rules I was told to do. In August 2016 I received a letter from the RREM requesting I pay over $ 35,000 by August 2019. This “clawback” really shocked me and I have been very upset about it.” – Fran B.
“We thought our odyssey was over when our house was repaired and elevated and we moved back in June of 2016 but we were wrong. The state-sponsored storm was still raging. After full 2 years of trying to close out our grant we were told that we owed $31,000. I invited the state back to my house to see my original (not granite, not upgraded) countertops and the appliances I could not afford to replace. About a year later I was able to get the amount reduced to $11,000. Like most people with flood insurance, I was covered for $250,000 and received an initial insurance payout of $44,000. We could never elevate and repair our houses with the funds available and we had to fight for each dollar. And now they want the money back. I do not need my clawback to be frozen, I need it to be eliminated. The state squandered more money than they can account for and yet fight us for each dime we received. We need your help to move on.” – Stacey A.
Background on David C. Woll: He has been a lawyer for the past 28 years, 15 of those being in service to the federal government. Part of his current position is overseeing an annual budget of 8 billion dollars in HUD federal funds for Community Development Block Grant Programs. After Superstorm Sandy he served In New Jersey as Senior Policy Advisor to Governor Christie and was the Director of the Attorney General’s Superstorm Sandy Compliance Unit. So! He *should* know how hard the program was for people to navigate.