LITTLE ROCK — U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor said Wednesday that he’s no longer blocking votes on the Treasury Department’s nominees after it reached an agreement with an Arkansas couple who received disaster aid the Federal Emergency Management Agency now calls improper.
Pryor announced Wednesday that the Gary and Dorothy Guglielmana of Mountain View and the department had reached a settlement over the money the agency was trying to recoup. Pryor said details of the agreement were private.
“The Guglielmana family has dealt with a lot of unnecessary bureaucracy and frustration over the past year. I’m pleased we were able to bring this case to a favorable resolution,” Pryor said in a statement released by his office. “This family showed tremendous courage and I hope their actions will help scores of other flood victims who may be tangled in the same web.
Pryor last week vowed to block votes on nominees until the department stopped trying to collect money from the couple, who received more than $27,000 after a 2008 flood. He says the case was referred to the Treasury Department for collection and the couple owed $37,000 after penalties and interest.
The Associated Press reported in May that FEMA is asking to get back about $22 million paid to more than 5,500 people since 2005. FEMA admits the mistaken payments were largely its own fault because employees gave money to ineligible individuals, approved duplicate payments for costs already covered by insurance and made other errors.
FEMA says the Guglielmanas shouldn’t have received the money because their county doesn’t participate in the flood insurance program. The Guglielmanas claim FEMA knew that when they approved the aid, and they should not be penalized three years later.
Pryor later released holds on two of seven nominees after the department suspended collection efforts. Pryor’s office said he’s now released the remaining five holds on Treasury nominees.
A Treasury Department spokesman said the claim was settled for a “compromise amount” but that such arrangements remain confidential under law.
“We were pleased to help the Guglielmana family resolve this matter and put it behind them,” Treasury Department spokesman Matt Anderson said.
Pryor said he will continue pushing for legislation that would help families in similar situations. The Senate Appropriations Committee in September agreed to a Pryor measure that would allow FEMA to waive payments that were erroneously made over the past six years.