By Mike Davis
Nine years after superstorm Sandy tore through the Jersey Shore, activists say there’s still work to be done.
Members of the New Jersey Organizing Project, a grassroots advocacy group for Sandy victims, on Friday highlighted a series of victories won by activists and legislators in the years since Sandy.
Notable was the decision by the Federal Emergency Management Agency earlier this month to opens in a new window forgive $26 million in disaster loans administered to Jersey Shore school districts and municipalities post-Sandy.
Now, legislators and activists are putting even more focus on ending “clawbacks,” in which the state or federal government has ordered some Sandy victims to repay all or part of Sandy recovery grants.
NJOP co-founder Joe Mangino said the state should use federal disaster relief funds to cover the cost of the clawbacks. Gov. Phil Murphy opens in a new window announced in 2018 that the clawbacks would be frozen, but residents have still been stuck with a deed restriction preventing them from selling their home unless they repay the relief funds.
“We followed the rules. We did what we were supposed to do,” said Mangino, a Stafford resident. “There are federal relief dollars in their coffers that could be used to release people from the clawbacks.”
But individual residents still don’t have such relief, said Paul Jeffrey, president of the Ortley Beach Voters and Taxpayers Association and member of NJOP.
opens in a new windowSuperstorm Sandy’s damage in Ocean County seven years ago
“How are you supposed to return money that’s been used to rebuild your home?” he asked. “It’s not sitting there. It’s in the two-by-fours and the roof on your home.”
But the small battles have created a model to follow to eventually pass legislation that could eventually lead to relief for individual homeowners, said U.S. Rep. Andy Kim, D-New Jersey.
“It gives us greater hope and a pathway we think we can replicate when it comes to clawbacks,” he said.
Mike Davis has spent the last decade covering New Jersey local news, marijuana legalization, transportation and a little bit of everything else. He’s won a few awards that make his parents very proud. Contact him at email@example.com or @byMikeDavis on Twitter.