What can I do about FEMA placing a debt on me for repayment of a grant?

In 2004, after Hurricane Ivan, FEMA issued me a grant because I was misplaced, without insurance, and had lost the majority of everything that I owned. About a year after that, they contacted me demanding repayment of about half back. They originally gave me $21,000 and they wanted $11,000 back because they said I was overpaid. Since then, I have filed an appeal, and never received a response. They say they have no record of my attempt to appeal and the taxes and fees have risen to about $18,000. They take my income return after I file taxes, and I now have this on my credit. What can I do?

Asked on March 14, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, Florida

Answers:

MD, Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

This doesn't sound accurate; they could not have simply taken your return without some sort of litigation. What you can do is if this was aid to help with mortgage payments or simply to help payoff some debts in order to move because you were displaced due to the Hurricane, you can file a complaint with your state's consumer protection bureau.  You should consider speaking with your local, state and federal representatives.  If all else fails, consider speaking with an attorney about corresponding with FEMA to sort this out. Like all government grants, if there is an accounting and the accounting correctly shows you were indeed overpaid, you may indeed be required to re-pay, however politically incorrect and unfair it may seem. Check the documentation you were given and signed to get the grant; there should be a provision in there about such issues like overpayment. You are entitled to an accounting and full explanation of why FEMA believes you were overpaid, so consider bringing this up as part of your complaint.


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