By Jody Stewart
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June is National Homeowner’s Month and we are celebrating by having call in days to our Congressional Representatives. This campaign will start on June 24th so keep on eye out for my emails and please join us as we move Clawback forgiveness into a reality. May 8th, 2020 will be remembered by thousands of New Jersey families battling Sandy grant clawbacks. We welcomed Congressman Kim and Pallone’s introduction of the “Security After Sandy Act” opens in a new windowin the House of Representatives and applaud Senator Menedez’s upcoming introduction in the Senate. We are calling to thank them if they co-sponsored the bill and show our support, for those who are not signed on yet, we are asking for their support.
With the fiscal trouble facing families, municipalities, New Jersey and our nation due to the economic impact of COVID-19, Sandy survivors cannot afford one disaster on top of another. Rep. Kim and Pallone’s “Security After Sandy Act” would keep hundreds of millions of dollars here in New Jersey at a time when we can least afford to lose them. While it has been over seven years since Sandy, many families have had clawbacks looming over their heads – a debt owed due to a supposed “duplication of benefits.”
Many people ask what is a Clawback? It is the term for families in the RREM program who face a demand to repay funds they received, sometimes due to a duplication of benefits. For many those duplications are from receiving the ICC ( Increased Cost Compliance) or a SBA Loan.
The Security after Sandy Act will also forgive Community disaster Loans (CDL) that towns have acquired after Superstorm Sandy. Places like Little Egg Harbor and Toms River are currently being told to repay forgivable loans for Sandy expenses. By forgiving these loans, funding will be kept in the pockets of people who live in those communities. Instead of having to go to higher property taxes to repay them.
Many Sandy survivors have looked for closure from the storm and are now in the middle of yet another disaster- the Covid virus.
Barbara Z from Toms River a Sandy Survivor with a Clawback in her own words:
“This brings us to the current COVID 19 Pandemic, which is another disaster for our family and so many others. I have been a small business owner for the past 28 years. I had to put 18 of our staff members on unemployment on 3/19/20 when Governor Murphy ordered hair salons to close. Our business still has many ongoing expenses as well as a mortgage to pay. As a small business owner, I am not entitled to unemployment benefits myself, so I continue to wait for Pandemic unemployment funds through the Cares Act, though it is impossible to get anyone from the NJ Department of Labor to help with my claim. This has left me for the first time in my adult life without an income. To add insult to injury, I tested positive for COVID 19 shortly after our business was closed down, and am still suffering with its lingering effects after 7 weeks.
We now have to worry about keeping a roof over our heads one more time. We have lost our jobs once again, wait for unemployment and apply for assistance if we are eligible. The good news is we are survivors and we continue to push forward not letting a Broken Recovery System get us down. Just as we have stood up and spoken out for Sandy survivors we must stand once again. We need to pass a Mortgage Forbearance and rental assistance program for families experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19.”
We have also seen many members getting their final letters for Supplemental Funding. Money has started rolling out. Yes, the COVID-19 pandemic is slowing things down a little but for many, they are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. They have hope of reaching the dream of getting home.
I would like to WELCOME HOME a few members. Carol and Jim have finally gotten their C/O after years of struggling and look forward to many years of happiness. Angel and FE, we are thrilled to know that you can rest your heads at night in your own home at last. And for many others, We say Congratulations.
So as survivors of one disaster we are the experts who have created programs, passed policies and now we stand up against one more disaster Covid-19. We are strong and will continue to win for our recovery as we push to find solutions for those suffering in yet another.