FEMA Superstorm Sandy Victims


WELCOME BACK. MCELY DECIDED TO DROP MILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN SO- CALLED CALL BACK CLAIMS AGAINST HUNDREDS OF FEMA VICTIMS. EXPLAINING WHAT CLAW BACKS ARE AND WHY SANDY SUFFERERS CLAIM THEY ARE VICTIMIZED YET AGAIN BY THE VERY PEOPLE O WERE SET UP TO HELP THEM. I THOUGHT IT WAS JUST A — HOW ARE YOU DOING? WE ARE JUST CHECK IN. Reporter: THIS WAS NO FRIENDLY LETTER FROM FEMA. LIZ WAS TOLD SHE MUST REPAY $4500 AFTER REPAIRING HER LONG ISLAND HOME. CAME ON THE SECOND ANNIVERSARY OF SANDY. IT SEEMED EXTRA CRUEL Reporter: SHE IS 1,000 STORM VICTIMS THAT ARE TOLD THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT WANTS PAY BACK FOR DUPLICATION. IT ADDS INSULT TO INJURY FOR VICTIMS WHO MADE HONEST MISTAKES. THESE ARE HARDWORKING INDIVIDUALS. TH NIGHT HAVE MADE AN HONEST MISTAKE IN A CONFUSING PROCESS, OR AS WE ARE HEARING FEMA MIGHT HAVE MADE THE MISTAKE. Reporte MEMBERS OF CONGRESS ARE SPONSORING A BILL TO ALLOW FEMA TO FORGIVE DEBTS OWED BY STORM VICTIMS INSTEAD OF CLAWING BACK MONEY IF AGENCY OVERPAID AND CHARGING LATE PENALTIES. YOU MADE THE MISTAKE. YOU PAY THE PRICE. NOT THE RESIDENTS. Reporter: ONLY 2% WAS PAID IN ERROR. WE WANT TO REMAIN GOOD STEWARDS OF TAXPAYER DOLLARS JUST THIS PAST WEEK, FEMA CONFIRMING IT IS DROPPING MORE THAN $5 MILLION IN CLAW BACK CLAIMS. JOINING US ONE OF THE NON- PROFIT ATTORNEYS WHO HAS BEEN REPRESENTING MANY SUPER STORM SANDY HOMEOWNERS WHO WERE CAUGHT UP IN THE CLAW BACK CLAIMS. HE IS WILL FREEMAN. HE IS THE STORM DIRECTOR AND HAS BEEN HELPING PEOPLE SINCE AFTER THE STORM. WHY DID FEMA BACK OFF ON THESE CLAIMS? FE IS REQUIRED TO GO AND SEEK OUT POTENTIAL OVERPAYMENTS. BY AN ACT OF CONGRESS. CORRECT. WHEN TH DO THAT THEY CAST A WIDE NET. IF THERE IS THE SLIGHTEST LITTLE WRINKLE IN A CASE THEY’LL INITIATE A RECOOPMENT. AS IT TURNED OUT A LARGE PERCENTAGE TURNED OUT TO BE ERRONEOUS. IT SNDPAINFUL FOR THE FOLKS INVOLVED. EWANT THE MONEY BACK. WHAT WE CALL CLAW BACK. HOMELIERS BENEFITED FROM HAVING THE CLAIMS DROPPED? WE THINK 200. WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR THE REMAINING CLAIMS. E E A NUMBER OF APPEALS STILL PENDING AND A LARGE NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHO NEVER ATTEMPTED TO APPEAL. YOU WENT TO BAT FOR THOSE FOLKS FOR VARIOUS REASONS ON WHY THEY SHOULD NOT HAVE TO PAY IT BACK. WHAT WAS E TYPICAL CLAW BACK CLAIM? A COMMON ONE WAS WHEN A TENANT APPLIED WITH FEMA. IF YOU LIVE IN THE ROCK AWAYS THERE IS A GOOD CHANCE YOUR RECEIPTS WASHED AWAY WITH EVERYTHING ELSE. ERE ESHE OOTHAT YOU LIVED AT THAT ADDRESS. IT SEEMS LIKE A SIMPLE THING. A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE A DRIVERS LICENSE. IF YOU ARE A LOW INCOME TENANT MAY MAY NOT NEED A DRIVERS LICENSE. ONE OF THETYPICAL THINGS IS WHERE FOLKS FOUGHT TO GET MORE MONEY FROM THEIR INSURANCE COMPANIES, HIRED ATTORNEYS TO DO IT. IN SOME CASES THEY WORKED WITH FOLKS LIKE YOU WHERE THERE IS NO PAYMENT. OTHERS THEY D TO PAY THE ATTORNEYS. THEY WERE SUCCESSFUL IN GETTING THEIR INSURANCE COMPANIES TO PAY THEM MORE ONLY TO HAVE FEMA TURN AROUND AND SAY YOU HAVE TO PAY US BACK BECAUSE YOU HAVE MORE MONEY BECAUSE Y GOT PAID FROM THE INSURANCE COMPANY. BUT THEY WERE UNDERPAID IN THE FIRST PLACE. HAS ANYTNG CHANGED ON THAT FRONT? FEMA WILL SAY IF YOU GOTADDITIONAL MONEY BECAUSE OF MANY YEARS OF DELAY YOU ARE ON THE BOOK WITH FEMA. I IIO I WOULD THINK WHY ARE WE PAYING LONG ISLANDERS WHO GET MORE THAN THE SYSTEM ALLOWS. UIMELMOST CLAW BACKS ARE NOT FOR PEOPLE COMMITTING FRAUD. THESE AREITHER INNOCENT MISTAKES IN PAPER WORK OR VARIOUS THINGS ALONG THOSE LINES. ALL HAVE TO DO IS LOOK AT THEIR HOMES. THEY HAVE NOT FINISHED REPAIRING THEM. EXALY AS FEMA WILL TELL YOU, AND THE LEGISLATION SHOWS THIS WAS NOT SET UP FOR PEOPLE TO BE MADE A HOME. IT IS THAT TEMPORARY BOOTS ON THE GROUND THING. FEMA COMES OUT AND GIVE PEOPLE A LITTLE MONEY TO GET THEM GOING. WE ARE STILL HERE TODAY, FOUR YEARS LATER AND WE ARE NOT THERE YET. IT IS A REALITY CHECK AND FAIRNESS ISSUE AS TO WHAT IS TO DONE. WHY HAVEN’T CONGRESS BEEN RESPONSIVE TO THE AMOUNT OWED? THEY HAVE GONE THROUGH DISASTERS IN THEIR STATES, AS WELL. THAT HAPPENED ONCE WITH KATRINA. TODAY’S CONGRESS IS NOT KNOWN FOR PROGRESSIVE LEGISLATION COMING OUT. MAKES YOU WONDER IF THIS WILL BE TAKEN UP WITH A NEW RESIDENT IN THE WHITE HOUSE. IS THAT A FACTOR? IT IS DEFINITELY A POSSIBILITY. BOTH CANDIDATES ARE NEW YORKERS TO SOME DEGREE. THEY SHOULD HAVE SOME DEGREE OF INTEREST IN THIS. DO YOU THINK IT COULD LEAD TO CHANGES IN THE WAY FEMA IS STACK — STRUCTURES. FEMA THOUGHT THEY WERE TAKEN CARE OF THIS. DEFINITY THERE WILL BE CHANGES. IT REMAINTO BE SEEN WHAT THEY’LL BE AND HOW EFFECTIVE THEY’LL BE. WHAT IS YOUR MAIN ARGUMENT WHEN YOU GO TO REPRESENT SOME OF THESE HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE WHEN YOU ARE TRYING TO GET FEMA TO BACK OFF THE CLAW BACK CLAIMS. WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THEM? GENERALLY WE’LL TRY TO REFUTE THE ALLEGATIONS FEMA HAS WITH WHATEVER DOCUMENTATION WE HAVE AVAILABLE. W Y ARGUE IN THE APPROPRIATE CASE THAT IT MIGHT BE TOO LATE. IF SOMEBODY GOT $10,000 IF 2012 TO RESTORE THEIR BASEMENT. THAT MONEY IS GONE. A PERSON ON SOCIAL SECURITY MAKING A THOUSAND DOLLARS A MONTH, THERE IS NO WAY THEY CAN REPAY THIS MONEY. YOU CAN TRY TO GET THIS MONEY. SOME PEOPLE SAY YOU CAN’T GET BLOOD FROM A STONE. UNFORTUNATELY THE GOVERNMENT HAS MORE POWER TO GET MONEY FROM PEOPLE THAN YOUR NORMAL CREDITOR. TALK ABOUT THAT. SOME PEOPLE ARE STILL ON THE HOOK AND THEY ARE COLLECTING FROM THEM AS WE SPEAK. HOW DO THEY GO ABOUT DOING THAT? IN ADDITION TO THE USUAL COLLECTION THINGS OF SEIZING A BANK ACCOUNT OR GARNISHING WAGES CAN GOVERNMENT COULD TAKE A TAX REFUND OR SOMEONE’S SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS. THE GOVERNMENT HAS EXTRAORDINARY POWER TO GET MONEY BACK. CAN THEY TAKE THE PROPERTY AS WELL? WE HAVE NOT SEEN THAT BUT THE GOVERNMENT HAS BROAD POWER WHEN IT COMES TO GETTING ITS MONEY BACK. HOW DO YOU HELP THEM? I SAID THERE IS NO CHARGE. EXPLAIN HOW THE PROCESS WORKS. WE ARE FUNDED BY ASSORTED NON-PROFIT AND GOVERNMENT ENTITIES TO PROVIDE FREE LEGAL SERVICES TO PEOPLE IN NEED. OUR SANDY CLAIMS WE REPRESENTED THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE AT THIS POINT. WE CURRENTLY STILL HAVE OVER 50 PENDING FEMA APPEALS. ANWE ARE STILL WAITING FOR ANSWERS ON THOSE. A LOT OF ANSWERS STILL. AND THE FOLKS WHO WORKED ON THIS SAY THEY ARE DOING EVERYTHING THEY CAN THAT THE LAW ALLOWS. WE SEE STILL THESE LEGAL CASES AS PEOPLE ARE DESPERATE TO GET BACK IN THEIR HOMES AND WE FACE ANOTHER SUMMER MORE THAN THREE YEARS AFTER THE STORM HIT. WILL FREEMAN STORM RESPONSE UNIT DIRECTOR WITH THE NEW YORK LEGAL ASSISTANCE GROUP THK U VMUCH FOR COMING

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