U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. Representative Kathleen M. Rice announced their introduction of the Senate and House versions of the Sandy Duplication of Benefits Fairness Act, to protect Superstorm Sandy survivors and ensure they can keep the grant funding they received through the New York Rising program. Immediately after Superstorm Sandy, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) told New Yorkers that in order to receive any federal disaster assistance, they must first apply for a loan through the Small Business Administration (SBA). Many households took out these loans, as suggested, in order to get back on their feet and remain eligible for other forms of federal assistance.
Long Island households who received disaster assistance grant funding through the New York Rising program were then advised that they must pay that money back because they also took out a SBA loan. This means that people who are currently paying back their SBA loans were also told that they have to return grant money that they may have already spent. The result is that they may have to take out additional loans to cover the cost of the recoupment. In many instances, homeowners are being told to pay back tens of thousands of dollars. People may now be in danger of incurring additional debt on top of their Sandy losses and even potentially losing their homes.
“Many Long Islanders are still working on their recovery almost a decade after Superstorm Sandy struck our communities,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Mixed messages from the federal government have caused unnecessary confusion and headaches for homeowners and families already dealing with financial hardship. The Sandy Duplication of Benefits Fairness Act will ensure that Long Islanders won’t be forced to pay back grant money they need to help rebuild their lives and communities, and I look forward to working with Representative Rice to get it done.”
“It is long past time to provide certainty to Long Islanders and ensure they are not required to pay back the grant money they received to rebuild after Superstorm Sandy,” said Representative Rice. “These families should not be subjected to more financial hardship just because the federal government did not provide clear instructions or comprehensive information in the aftermath of the storm. I’m proud to join Senator Gillibrand in introducing the Sandy Duplication of Benefits Fairness Act to correct this wrong.”
In 2018, Congress enacted legislation that waives the duplication of benefits restriction to allow SBA loan recipients to be eligible to receive disaster relief grants, like those administered by New York Rising, but only made the fix retroactive to 2016. Gillibrand’s legislation, the Sandy Duplication of Benefits Fairness Act, would make the duplication of benefits fix retroactive to October 1, 2012 to make Sandy survivors eligible to keep the CDBG grant funding even if they also received an SBA loan.
Read the text of the bill here.