CHADWICK BEACH –Six years after Superstorm Sandy, hundreds of New Jersey families are still waiting for some sort of resolution to the “clawbacks” which have them owing tens of thousands of dollars in grant money back to the government.
Maryann Ryan used $100,000 in grant money to rebuild her two bedroom bungalow in Chadwick Beach, which was damaged during Sandy. But the state now says it overpaid her by about $38,000 and it wants that money back.
“I would have to pay $1,000 a month until the $38,000 was paid up,” Ryan says. “Now, I am a woman of certain income and a thousand a month is ridiculous. They thought it was such a great deal because there was no interest. Well, whoop-de-doo.”
Ryan is appealing, with the assistance of the New Jersey Organizing Project. The group says homeowners across the Jersey Shore are desperate for some sort of clarity from the Murphy administration on how clawbacks will be handled.
“We have folks who have money due in the summer, you know, $25-30-35,000, and they don’t have it,” says NJOP Executive Director Amanda Devecka Rinear.
Ryan isn’t alone. Fred and Marjorie Schaffer, of Little Egg Harbor, replaced their home with the help of grant money, but were told they owe nearly $70,000 in grant money. The Schaffers also took out a Small Business Administration Loan which, they found out later, is considered a “duplication of benefits” under FEMA rules. Pat Weber, of Union Beach, faces a similar clawback because she received $30,000 in supplemental flood insurance.
New Jersey has $1.2 billion in unspent federal Sandy funds, and the NJOP has been lobbying the Murphy administration to use some of it to help clawback victims, as well as homeowners who lack the funding to complete construction so they can return home. The clawbacks may prove to be more challenging, since both the funding and the clawback rules come from FEMA.
“These are people who put everything in rebuilding and holding on, people on fixed incomes, people with 2-3 jobs, we have to do something,” Devecka-Rinear says.