Intergovernmental Affairs Advisory
FEMA URGES THOSE WHO RECEIVED WAIVER NOTICES TO FILE FOR A WAIVER BEFORE THE DEADLINE
On December 17, 2011, Congress passed the Fiscal Year 12 Omnibus Appropriations bill, which the President signed into law on Friday, December 23, 2011. Section 565 of the conference agreement contained the Disaster Assistance Recoupment Fairness Act of 2011. The legislation provides FEMA the discretion to waive certain debts from disasters declared between August 2005 and the end of 2010 if the debt arose from an improper individual assistance payment made as a result of FEMA’s error and the recipient meets certain criteria. The law does not apply to recoupment efforts for disasters declared after January 1, 2011.
As of March 30, FEMA mailed Notice of Waiver letters to more than 87,000 disaster survivors who may be eligible for a waiver of disaster debts.
FEMA is diligently conducting reviews of debt waiver requests that have been received. We are approving requests that clearly meet the requirements for the waiver. This week, FEMA will begin to notify applicants whose reviews have been completed and are approved for a waiver.
FEMA wants to remind everyone that the deadline for submitting a waiver request is 60 days from the date of the Notice of Waiver that FEMA has been sending by mail. For the majority of disaster survivors who have received notices, the deadline to submit their waiver request is between April 16 and 23. As an additional measure, FEMA will also be mailing reminder letters to those who have yet to request a waiver, urging them to do so. It is imperative that the disaster survivor take the necessary action to request a waiver prior to the deadline in order to be considered for a waiver.
For disaster survivors who have previously submitted appeals on the payment of their debt, FEMA urges them to also file a request for a waiver, prior to the deadline.
Any disaster survivor with questions about their debt or the process to request a waiver is encouraged to contact FEMA’s Recoupment Helpline at 1-800-816-1122 between 9:00 AM and 8:00 PM EST, Monday through Friday. If you have a speech disability or hearing loss and use a TTY, call 1-800-462-7585 directly; if you use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 1-800-816-1122.
The Federal Register outlining this implementation plan is available at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/fr/ and guidance regarding the waiver provisions is available online at www.fema.gov
Background on DARFA Implementation
DARFA provides the Administrator of FEMA with the authority to waive a debt arising from improper payments provided for disasters declared between August 28, 2005, and December 31, 2010, if:
1) The debt does not involve fraud, the presentation of a false claim, or misrepresentation;
2) The assistance was distributed based on FEMA error;
3) There was no fault on behalf of the debtor; and
4) The collection of the debt would be “against equity and good conscience.”
5) In addition, if the above 4 conditions are met and the debtor’s Adjusted Gross Income is greater than $90,000, FEMA may approve no more than a partial waiver.
On February 13, FEMA began sending Waiver Notices via regular mail to the most recent address available to all survivors, who were previously sent a Notice of Debt (NOD) letter, from disasters that took place between August 28, 2005, and December 31, 2010. Individuals whose previous appeal was upheld and their recoupment terminated, debtors who have been convicted of fraud, and debtors who have court ordered restitution are not eligible for a waiver and will, therefore, not receive a Notice. FEMA has mailed Waiver Notices to more than 87,000 debtors. The Waiver Notice clearly explained the process to request a waiver, including what documentation is required and the time limit, 60 days from the date of the notice, disaster survivors have to return the information to FEMA. The Notice also outlined the legal standard FEMA will apply to waiver requests. For more detail, please reference the Federal Register Notice published on February 13, 2012, at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/fr/.
FEMA will review requests for waiver placing a priority on cases where the debtors have previously:
a) Appealed and been denied in full or in part;
b) Have paid the debt;
c) Have requested a payment plan or compromise; and/or
d) Have had their debt written-off for various reasons.
Finally, as appropriate, FEMA will also review those cases referred to the Department of Treasury where it can be confirmed the Debtor did not receive a Notice of Debt or a Waiver Notice from FEMA. The Agency will recall the debt to provide the Debtor an opportunity to appeal and be considered for a waiver.
FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.