Hurricane Sandy recovery is far from over, but FEMA is asking some recipients of federal aid for their money back. The AP reports, "The Federal Emergency Management Agency has asked at least a dozen people in a Belle Harbor assisted living center to pay back thousands of dollars in disaster aid."
FEMA claims that money was supposed to be used for temporary housing, which the Belle Harbor assisted living residents never needed, because they were moved between different state-funded shelters. However, one of them, Robert Rosenberg, 61, pointed out that he used his $2,486 for food and clothing.
"We're on a fixed income. I don't have that kind of money!" said Rosenberg, who suffers from a spinal disability and other chronic health problems....
After their chaotic evacuation, Belle Harbor Manor residents were initially taken to a huge evacuation center set up inside a Brooklyn armory, then spent a brief period sleeping four-to-a-room at a hotel in a crime-plagued neighborhood where they were advised not to go outside after dark.
The state then moved the residents, many of whom suffer from mild mental illnesses, to a halfway house on the grounds of a partly-abandoned psychiatric hospital in Queens, where they bunked on cots and were barred from having visitors in their rooms...
Rosenberg said the FEMA workers who urged him to apply for assistance during the period when residents were staying at the armory never explained that the money could only be used for housing.
"Everyone asked, `Do we have to pay this back later on? Is it a loan?' They said, `No. It's a gift from Obama,'" he said. "If I wasn't eligible, then why give it to me in the first place? They knew we were living in an adult home. They knew our shelter was being paid for by the state. It's not like we lied on the application."
Rosenberg has until November 15 to pay or file an appeal. A FEMA spokesperson told the AP, "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."
Belle Harbor was severely damaged during Sandy.