By LISA STEVENS
Instead, there are countless problems faced by Sandy survivors across the Jersey Shore because of the RREM Program. Families are still not home and even survivors who have gotten home are still struggling to find economic dignity and security for their families. From contractor fraud to clawbacks, Sandy impacted families can’t catch a break.
As a Sandy survivor and a Committeewoman in Little Egg Harbor, I know all too well the struggles of going through Sandy Recovery. I’ve experienced firsthand the chaotic process from FEMA, underpayment from the private insurance companies that administer our National Flood Insurance Program, and the entire process of the RREM program. That includes receiving a ‘clawback’ letter from the RREM Program asking me for thousands of dollars in grant money to be returned – a request I still haven’t gotten a full explanation for. The amount I owe back is minimal in comparison to the tens of thousands of dollars being clawed back from my neighbors and friends. On every clawback letter I’ve seen, there is no clear explanation of why they’re being asked to pay back the funds, no appeals process and doesn’t provide them any options to pay back the debt besides to send in a cashier’s check of the full amount to the Treasury Department of New Jersey.
That’s why we’ve been fighting back. Over the past year, we’ve been working with our legislators through lobbying efforts and attending assembly hearings to support a bill (A4784) that includes solutions NJOP has been pushing for that addresses some of problems with the clawback process.
Some of important solutions included in this bill are:
- (1) it creates an appeals process for homeowners who receive clawbacks to petition the determination;
- (2) establishes options for repayment of clawback;
- (3) limits monthly clawback repayments based on income and requires the DCA to consider hardship conditions when attempting to recoup debt.
In June of 2017, this legislation passed in the Assembly and we are gearing up to begin lobbying our Senators to support this legislation in a few short weeks. But that’s not all, we’re also gearing up to hold our next governor accountable to a full & fair Sandy recovery and a plan for sea level rise/future storms.