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Measure Would Protect Sandy Victims From Payback Demands

Lawmakers and homeowners say the measure would provide some relief for Sandy victims.
Phil Gregory

A New Jersey lawmaker wants to provide some protection for Superstorm Sandy victims told by the state they have to repay some grant money they received to rebuild.

Assemblyman Reed Gusciora says residents acted in good faith when they accepted the grant money to rebuild from Sandy.

“They got undercut by their own insurance company and then they thought the government grants was a godsend. Unfortunately to find out the government, RREM, wants the money back. This is unconscionable.”

Legislation Gusciora sponsored would create a clear appeals process for homeowners to dispute claims of overpayment.

It would also establish repayment options and set limits based on income.

Ventor resident Fran Baronowitz says the state sent her a letter saying she has to return $35,000 in grant money, claiming it was a duplicated award.

"I can't afford to pay back $35,000. I want the appeal to come up so that I can find out what I really have to pay. I don't mind paying something, but not $35,000."

Little Egg Harbor resident Jody Stewart says she's back in her rebuilt home but was told she has to repay $20,000 in grant money.

“I cannot afford it. We live on a fixed income. My husband is retired. At this point it’s making us physically ill. It has already put stress on our marriage.”

Stewart hopes the legislation is enacted so she can finally put an end to years of paperwork and disputes in her rebuilding process.