LONG BEACH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Four years after Superstorm Sandy devastated the area, there is new outrage on Long Island.
The federal government is trying to take back millions of dollars given to two communities hit hard by the storm.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) pointed to an enlarged photo of the heavy-duty cleanup work in the Nassau County town of North Hempstead. The work went on for months following Superstorm Sandy’s destruction which included many downed trees and power lines.
On the South Shore, Long Beach was hit even harder by the storm. Yet now, the inspector general’s office of FEMA, the federal agency overseeing storm recovery is asking the towns to repay some of the relief money.
As CBS2’s Raegan Medgie reported, FEMA’s inspector general said $9.9-million was overpaid to North Hempstead and $668,000 to Long Beach schools.
“The inspector general said that some of the debris removal contracts were not awarded in a reasonable manner. JHello inspector general? it was an emergency,” Schumer said.
FEMA’s inspector general said contractors were paid too much profit and contracts should have been bid out.
Schumer and town officials argued that FEMA officials on the ground signed off on the payments four years ago to speed up the cleanup.
“I don’t know what you think, but we felt that post-Sandy cleanup certainly was categorized as an emergency,” Hempstead Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth (D) said.
As you’d expect FEMA’s attempt to clawback the money has outraged local taxpayers.
“I think in many ways we’re overtaxed, so I would be very much opposed to that,” Steve Bender said.
“Four years? I don’t know what the statute of limitations is, but it doesn’t sound right to me,” Joan Easton added.
The Long Beach School Superintendent said students could be victimized.
“We can’t afford to replace that money without tapping into reserves which otherwise would go to students,” David Weiss said.
Senator Schumer said he will aggressively lobby FEMA to back off.
A FEMA spokesman told CBS2 the agency will try to resolve what it calls ‘compliance issues’ for North Hempstead and Long Beach.