FEMA Asking Hard-Hit Rockaway Residents To Return Aid Money

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Ugh. If you thought the elderly and disabled residents of Bell Harbor Manor in Rockaway suffered enough during Hurricane Sandy, which displaced them for four months, think again. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is now asking that some residents at the nursing home, many of whom are struggling financially, to give back thousands of dollars in relief funds.

Immediately prior to Hurricane Sandy, Governor Cuomo and the city’s health commissioner made the decision not to evacuate the 40 nursing homes around the city. One of those facilities was Bell Harbor Manor, a home that stands just one block from Rockaway Beach. Flooding severely damaged Bell Harbor, and residents were moved to at least several shelters and even a hotel where conditions were crowded and miserable and staffers were not adequately prepared to deal with nursing home patients. Months after the storm, residents were once again moved to Creedmor Psychiatric Center in Queens.

If that’s not depressing enough, these same residents were preyed upon by managed care company CenterLight hoping to reap the benefits from the Medicaid overhaul, which would have allowed them to rake in over $45,000 a year per resident signature. CenterLight reps descended upon the hotel where the evacuees were staying in Brooklyn and used high pressure tactics to get them to sign up for care the nursing home residents didn’t necessarily need.

About a dozen residents recently received letters from FEMA asking them to pay back the money they had received two years ago from the disaster relief agency. Technically, the aid money was supposed to be spent on temporary housing, instead many residents spent it on other necessities that were in short supply immediately following the storm.

NBC New York obtained records over the summer that indicated FEMA “was considering a recoupment action against 35 residents of assisted living facilities in the same part of Queens that is home to Belle Harbor Manor. Collectively, those residents had received $108,598, with most of that money intended to cover temporary housing.”

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