LINDENHURST - FEMA claims it overpaid a victim of Superstorm Sandy in disaster assistance money, and now the federal agency is seeking to get the money back with interest.
Gary Silberman was forced out of his Lindenhurst home when it was destroyed by the storm and the floodwaters it brought. FEMA approved him for $900 per month in rent and $6,000 in damage to personal property, but the payments stopped in November. After that, he says FEMA ordered him to repay nearly $17,000 with interest.
"For some reason, they decided I didn't deserve it anymore and then they wanted it back," Silberman says.
FEMA sent Silberman a letter explaining that he had been overpaid because he lived with his father, who also received assistance. But Silberman says he paid his father monthly rent, just like any other landlord, and adds that he has the documents to prove it. FEMA, he says, just won't listen, and Silberman adds that it's beyond frustrating.
"You know, when there's all this money to be given to other countries and billions of dollars to spend across the seas, and someone who was legitimately in a storm that was a national situation and deserves help, and now they're asking for the money back with interest is a travesty," Silberman says.
FEMA would not specifically comment on Silberman's case, but a spokesman said that these types of audits and recoupments are required by law. "Overpayments to survivors sometimes occur because FEMA provides individual assistance in advance of insurance coverage… Overpayments may also occur because of application mistakes and human errors," FEMA said in a statement.
The federal emergency agency would not say how many other Long Islanders it believes may have been overpaid.
FEMA has rejected Silberman's appeal on the matter, but he says he won't give up. His only option now is to fight FEMA in court.