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Tuesday, August 28, 2018


This is an appeal from the final decision of the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) that found appellant ineligible to receive two Superstorm Sandy recovery grants. The DCA awarded these grants to assist homeowners to remain in the county of their primary residence after the storm damaged their primary residence or to help them rebuild or repair their damaged primary residence. The DCA initially awarded appellant two grants totaling $85,000 based on his representation on the grant applications that his primary residence was a property he owned in Toms River.
The DCA thereafter found documentary evidence showing appellant's primary residence at the time of the storm was an apartment located in Hoboken and demanded that appellant refund the awards. The matter was transferred to the Office of Administrative Law for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Appellant argued the DCA should have applied the common law concept of domicile to determine what his primary residence was at the time of storm. The ALJ issued an Initial Decision rejecting appellant's argument. The DCA Commissioner accepted the ALJ's findings and conclusions of law without modification.
This court affirms the Commissioner's decision. These grants were created to assist a class of property owners whose "primary residence" was damaged or destroyed by Superstorm Sandy. The grant applications contain a list of specific documents that the DCA uses to make the eligibility determinations. Replacing the straightforward criteria for eligibility established by the DCA with the common law concept of domicile would compromise the essential purpose of these relief programs and inject needless ambiguity into the eligibility determination process.