MacArthur and New York Democrat Join Forces to Protect Sandy Victims

Jul 19, 2017

Bipartisanship lives! Yes, you can put a Republican and a Democrat in the same room in Washington, D.C., and both can come out alive, especially when they are working on an issue that affects both of their districts.

Congressman Tom MacArthur, the Republican who represents New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District, which includes the western half of Stafford Township and all of Barnegat Township, and Congresswoman Kathleen Rice, a Democrat from New York, joined last week to introduce the Disaster Assistance Fairness and Accountability Act of 2017.

The bill sets a three-year statute of limitations for disaster aid recoupment, preventing FEMA from trying to recoup money from innocent taxpayers.

Recoupment is a common practice in the insurance industry. MacArthur was an insurance company executive before running for Congress.

Say an insurance company has paid benefits to a hospital. That company later determines those benefits should not have been paid, that it made a mistake, so the company takes back the money from the hospital.

MacArthur and Rice are worried that the Federal Emergency Management Agency will try to do the same thing to victims of Superstorm Sandy – demand repayment of benefits paid out that shouldn’t have been, due to a FEMA error.

“Since I first came to Congress, fighting for natural disaster victims, who have been treated unfairly by FEMA, has always been a top priority of mine,” said McArthur in a press release. “This bipartisan bill will bring common sense reform to FEMA by protecting victims from recoupment years after their claims have been received. As South Jersey continues to recover from Superstorm Sandy, Jersey Shore families shouldn’t have to pay for FEMA’s mistakes.”

“Victims of disasters like Sandy use whatever assistance they receive to rebuild their homes and put their lives back together, and it’s not fair for FEMA to try and claw back that money years later because they think they noticed a mistake,” added Rice. “While we keep working to waive all debts for homeowners who may have been overpaid through no fault of their own, this bipartisan legislation will impose a three-year statute of limitations to recoup funds from individuals, as is already the case for states and municipalities.”

Sandy destroyed or substantially damaged nearly 350,000 homes in New Jersey and New York state, causing over $30 billion in losses. Half of the losses in New Jersey came in MacArthur’s district, which stretches north to Brick Township and part of Point Pleasant. Meanwhile, Rice’s New York 4th Congressional District is located in central and southern Nassau County – in other words, Long Island, another area devastated by Sandy. —R.M.

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