Goldfeder Rips FEMA for ‘Recoupment’ Letters

Goldfeder Rips FEMA for ‘Recoupment’ Letters


Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder this week blasted FEMA for what he called a 'misguided' policy. The agency said it's just following the law. Photo Courtesy of Assemblyman Goldfeder's Office

Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder this week blasted FEMA for what he called a ‘misguided’ policy. The agency said it’s just following the law.
Photo Courtesy of Assemblyman Goldfeder’s Office

Two years later, and still many victims of Superstorm Sandy are trying to piece together their homes, their businesses, their lives.

Two years later, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency wants its money back—at least $5.8 million.

The agency recently sent letters to some recipients of government storm aid who, as a result of poor FEMA record keeping and clerical issues in the aftermath of Sandy, received more funds than they were originally supposed to get.

The policy, known as “recoupment,” is intended to recover the excess funds, which for some homeowners total thousands of dollars. However, these are not considered to be cases of victims knowingly committing fraud.

But with families still struggling to recover, Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Ozone Park) ripped FEMA this week for what he called a “misguided and detrimental” policy, and asked the agency to reconsider it.

“Families who received additional assistance, through no fault of their own, should not be asked to return money that was clearly spent on aiding their recovery from Sandy,” Goldfeder said.

Brian Rafferty, a displaced Rockaway Park resident, called the letter he received, after “we lost everything,” a real “slap in the face.’

A FEMA spokesman said the agency is only following protocol, and that as of mid-September, less than one percent of survivors that obtained assistance received a recoupment letter.

“Throughout the disaster cycle, FEMA performs quality checks and audits for payments made in error,” he noted. “Unfortunately, whether through fraud, human or accounting errors, or for other reasons, assistance sometimes goes to individuals who are not eligible for it during the response to any disaster, and FEMA and other federal agencies are required by law to recoup improper payments.”

The spokesman added that, “FEMA remains committed to working with applicants and ensuring they have an understanding of the options available to resolve their debt, which includes making a payment, filling an appeal, requesting a compromise and establishing a payment plan.”


By Michael V. Cusenza


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