Sandy Victims in NJ May Not Have to Repay Excess Grant Money
For hundreds of residents who had their homes destroyed by Superstorm Sandy, they are a step closer to not having to repay excess federal aid the government has been trying to get back.
The $28 million dollars in payments was not obtained by any fraud or through any fault of the homeowners. It amounted to a glitch in the system. Most, if not all, of that money has already been spent repairing or elevating homes.
Under legislation passed by the U.S. House on Wednesday, 800 New Jersey homeowners would have the debt wiped out. Another 1,000 homeowners would technically still be on the hook for repayment but would have those payments suspended indefinitely.
The U.S. Senate and President Joe Biden would still have to agree for this to become law.
Congress did suspend the clawback payments until 2025 in March, to give lawmakers time to permanently resolve the issue.
Gov. Phil Murphy's administration announced a freeze on state clawback attempts in 2018.
Residents were not even aware they had received too much money until the government asked for it back.
Joe Mangino told told state lawmakers during a hearing in May that he believes he followed all the rules while applying for and accepting grants related to rebuilding his home.
Despite getting back into his home nearly 7 years ago, the Stafford resident says he can't move on.
"While I am home, I am not whole," Mangino told New Jersey legislators. "I feel like we're being held hostage."
On the federal level, this has become a partisan issue.
New Jersey's 10 Democrats voted with the House majority to pass the bill. Chris Smith, R-4th, and Jeff Van Drew, R-2nd, voted with House Republicans in opposition to the measure.
Previous reporting by Dino Flammia was used for this story.