At least a dozen residents of an assisted-living center in Rockaway, Queens, that mostly houses low-income disabled and elderly people are being asked to return aid they received from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) after Hurricane Sandy damaged their facility.
After the Belle Harbor Manor was evacuated, residents bounced from shelter to shelter for four months. The residents first stayed inside an armory in Brooklyn, then slept four to a room in a hotel "in a crime-plagued neighborhood where they were advised not to go outside after dark," NBC New York reports. Eventually, they moved to a halfway house on the grounds of a sparsely populated psychiatric hospital in Queens.
Twelve Belle Harbor Manor residents have been asked to pay back their aid money. Sixty-one-year-old Robert Rosenberg was told in a letter from FEMA he had until Nov. 15 to send a check for $2,486 or file an appeal. The letter said the money he received was supposed to be spent on temporary housing, but because the residents all were placed in state-funded shelters, it was a mistake for him to receive any funds.
"We're on a fixed income," Rosenberg told NBC New York. "I don't have that kind of money." He said he used the funds to purchase food and clothing, and that FEMA workers told him to apply for the assistance without saying it could only be used for housing.