MacArthur Does a Legislative End-Run to Protect Sandy Victims
Toms River, New Jersey—Two of Congressman Tom MacArthur’s top priorities since his first day in office were signed into law by the president. These provisions protect and support victims of natural disasters like Superstorm Sandy, fix FEMA’s recoupment process, and allow natural disaster victims to have more access to aid that help families and small businesses rebuild.
The very first bill Congressman MacArthur introduced as a Member of Congress was the Disaster Assistance Fairness and Accountability Act of 2015. The bill protects disaster victims from FEMA recoupments if disaster aid was awarded based on an accurately completed application, even if FEMA later questions the basis of the grant. After fighting to get this protection for Sandy victims for more than three years, MacArthur was able to get his provision attached to an unrelated law (the Sports Medicine Licensure Clarity Act). The measure will apply to any disaster declared by the president on or after January 1, 2012, which includes Sandy victims.
“Superstorm Sandy devastated South Jersey lives, homes, and businesses. Today, many are still dealing with the aftermath and impact of ineffective and unfair federal government policies. Since day one in Congress, it has been my goal to make FEMA more accountable and work better for South Jersey residents. The federal government has made it difficult for some in our community to recover from Sandy because of the actions of a few bad actors,” said Congressman MacArthur. “Without this change in the law, FEMA could continue to change their mind on grants and make disaster victims pay back previously awarded disaster assistance, sometimes years after the award. This happened to many of my constituents after Sandy and I’m grateful that I’m in the position to stop it once and for all. I worked in the insurance industry for 30 years and in the private sector, insurers can’t just take their money back from families. The federal government should be held to this standard, too. This protection bars FEMA from recouping funds except in cases of fraud or abuse. It rights a wrong that has been in place for far too long.”
A second policy championed by MacArthur will change current law that prohibits Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loan recipients from being eligible for FEMA disaster assistance grants. This allows the president to waive the duplication of benefits during a federally declared disaster, allowing disaster victims to have access to both loans and other forms of federal aid. Now, South Jersey residents will have greater access to federal aid for years to come.
“The federal government should make it easier, not harder for those who have just gone through a natural disaster. When homes and businesses are destroyed, the last thing families should have to worry about is whether taking an SBA loan will disqualify them for FEMA grants that become available later on. We must ensure that Americans have access to federal assistance during times of disaster,” added Congressman MacArthur.