FEMA Wants at Least $5.8M in Sandy Aid Repaid - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

FEMA Wants at Least $5.8M in Sandy Aid Repaid

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A Crisfield, Md. home is shown surrounded by flood waters as the result of Hurricane Sandy. (Photo: WBOC File) A Crisfield, Md. home is shown surrounded by flood waters as the result of Hurricane Sandy. (Photo: WBOC File)
CRISFIELD, Md. (WBOC)- After Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast nearly two years ago, the federal government quickly sent out $1.4 billion in emergency disaster aid to storm victims. Now, the Federal Emergency Management agency is asking for some of that money back. 

FEMA is investigating about 4,500 households that it believes may have received improper payments after the storm, according to program officials. 

Somerset County was severely damaged when Superstorm Sandy rolled through. That's something Crisfield resident Tina Throne knows all too well.

"It just broke our heart every time we rode by there to see the house just sitting there, condemned and destroyed," said Throne. 

Throne says her property had been in the family since the 1940's, but when 18 inches of water filled her home during Sandy, they weren't left with much choice but to seek refuge elsewhere.

"The city put a pink sign on the door, wouldn't let us in for a while because of the risk of mold and other things," said Throne.

Finally, after about a year and a half of waiting, Throne says she was finally able to rebuild, because she was approved for recovery money. 

FEMA's latest campaign to recover overpayments, called "recoupment," is targeting people deemed ineligible because their damaged properties were vacation homes or rental properties instead of primary residences. Others had doubled dipped into the aid pool, with more than one household member getting payments., according to FEMA. Some received FEMA money for things later covered by insurance. 

About 179,000 households in New York and New Jersey received FEMA payments following the storm. The agency is also reviewing payments to some households in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Maryland, including Somerset County. 

In a statement, FEMA said, "FEMA is committed to maintaining a fair and transparent process for recovering improper payments. When the recoupment process affects disaster survivors, FEMA is committed to ensuring they have an understanding of their situation and the options available to resolve their debt. These options include paying the debt, appealing the determination, requesting a compromise or requesting a payment plan."

Sandy was among the costliest hurricanes in U.S. history. More than 280 people died in the U.S. and the Caribbean.

Tina Throne was surprised to hear the news that some people would have to pay back money they received from FEMA. "Just about everybody I know applied because FEMA came down, they promised us this wonderful thing 'Oh we're going to help you out' and we stood in line for days and hours," Throne said. 

FEMA said it is still conducting the investigation and audits in Maryland.

For now, people on the Eastern Shore who received assistance will wait, with the memory still fresh in their minds. "I was having nightmares for a long time. It's in the back of your mind. Wondering if another Sandy is going to hit and if it does, what kind of impact it will have. We're still economically devastated in Crisfield, still trying to rebuild."

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