2015 | Ocean County Long Term Recovery Group
Call us at (732) 569-3484 | Email us at info@OceanCountyLTRG.org

All posts in 2015

23 Sep 2015

FEMA Extends Deadline for Sandy Claims

MOONACHIE – U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez announced Sept. 18 that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has agreed to extend the deadline for Sandy victims to have their claims reviewed until Oct. 15.

After evidence emerged of widespread lowballing and potential fraud, and at the urging of Menendez and the New Jersey Congressional delegation, FEMA agreed in March to reopen all 142,000 flood insurance claims filed by victims of Superstorm Sandy, not currently in litigation, including 70,000 in New Jersey, according to a release.

“I have spent the past year and a half fighting to reform the NFIP’s broken claims process and give Sandy victims, who faithfully paid their insurance premiums, a second chance to finally get what they deserve,” stated Menendez, speaking at Joseph Street Park in Moonachie, a community hit especially hard during the Superstorm.

“I’m incredibly pleased to announce that FEMA has agreed to extend the deadline for Sandy victims to have their claims re-opened and reviewed.”

Menendez was joined by Tess Tomasi of the Volunteer Center of Bergen County, Sue Marticek of the Ocean County Long Term Recovery Group and Sonny Markoski of Long Beach Island, who, along with his wife Dawn, will be receiving $56,000 in additional money as a result of their claims review.pastedGraphic.png

18 Sep 2015

Menendez Announces Deadline Extension for FEMA Sandy Claims


MOONACHIE, NJ – U.S. Senator Robert Menendez today announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has agreed to extend the deadline for Sandy victims to have their claims reviewed until October 15.  After evidence emerged of widespread lowballing and potential fraud, and at the urging of Sen. Menendez and the New Jersey Congressional delegation, FEMA agreed in March to reopen all 142,000 flood insurance claims filed by victims of Superstorm Sandy, not currently in litigation, including 70,000 in New Jersey.

“I have spent the past year and a half fighting to reform the NFIP’s broken claims process and give Sandy victims, who faithfully paid their insurance premiums, a second chance to finally get what they deserve,” said Sen. Menendez, speaking at Joseph Street Park in Moonachie, a community hit especially hard during the Superstorm. “I’m incredibly pleased to announce that FEMA has agreed to extend the deadline for Sandy victims to have their claims re-opened and reviewed.”

Sen. Menendez was joined by Tess Tomasi of the Volunteer Center of Bergen County, Sue Marticek of the Ocean County Long Term Recovery Group and Sonny Markoski of Long Beach Island, who, along with his wife Dawn, will be receiving $56,000 in additional money as a result of their claims review.

“I understand why many families have been skeptical about making the call,” Menendez added. “You’re tired and frustrated and reopening your claim may seem like reopening an old wound that still hasn’t healed. But Sonny and Dawn Markoski would not be getting an additional $56,000 – money they should have gotten the first time around – if they had not taken a second chance.”

12 Sep 2015

As FEMA deadline nears, push is on to reach fraud victims | Di Ionno

Will Sandy recovery help or hurt Christie?
Maryann Flanigan of Legal Services of New Jersey speaks to a handful of residents who showed up for a free Hurricane Sandy flood insurance clinic in Union Beach in June. (Andrew Mills | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

Since March, when FEMA announced it would reopen claims for Sandy victims who believed they were short-changed by flood insurance carriers, there has been a concerted effort to get people on board.

Meetings have been held in town halls, churches, backyards and banquet rooms. Information sessions have been hosted by politicians, law firms, nonprofits and private citizens.

Now, as the Sept. 15 deadline approaches, that effort almost feels like a “get-out-the-vote” movement. There was meeting Thursday night at the Forked River United Methodist Church; another today at Berkeley Township’s rec center.

Sue Marticek, executive director of the Ocean County Long Term Recovery Group, has run sessions as far north as the Union Beach council chambers and as far south as the Cape May Tabernacle United Methodist Church.

“I would encourage any Sandy victim who feels they were lowballed to contact FEMA.” — Sen. Robert Menendez.

George Kasimos, who founded Stop FEMA Now to fight the agency’s post-Sandy flood elevation maps, has hosted information sessions on the patio of a private home, a firehouse, an ambulance station and a café.

07 Sep 2015

Deadline nears to reopen Superstorm Sandy claims

Rescue workers using a boat to evacuate residents on Eckel Road in Little Ferry on Oct. 30, 2012, after Superstorm Sandy caused flooding.RECORD FILE PHOTO
Rescue workers using a boat to evacuate residents on Eckel Road in Little Ferry on Oct. 30, 2012, after Superstorm Sandy caused flooding.

With a mid-September deadline fast approaching, victims of Superstorm Sandy who believe they were underpaid by their flood insurance companies are running out of time to reopen their claims.

After allegations surfaced that engineering reports had been doctored to minimize insurance payouts to Sandy victims, the Federal Emergency Management Agency took the unprecedented step of allowing policyholders to request another review of their claims.

Rescue workers using a boat to evacuate residents on Eckel Road in Little Ferry on Oct. 30, 2012, after Superstorm Sandy caused flooding.

RECORD FILE PHOTO
Storm damage on Oct. 31, 2012, in Seaside Heights.

FEMA started sending out letters to about 142,000 policyholders in May. As of Friday, 19,892 had either contacted the Sandy review call center or downloaded an application. Nearly 13,000 had been approved for review, according to FEMA spokesman Rafael Lemaitre. The deadline is  next Tuesday.

03 Sep 2015

Time’s running out to reopen your Sandy flood claim

18 Aug 2015

Hurricane Sandy’s Red Tape Makes a Veteran Say, ‘I’d Rather Go Back to Falluja’

BALDWIN, N.Y. — The recent letter from the Federal Emergency Management Agency about his flood insurance claim should have come as good news to William T. Lynch, who is now on his third apartment rental since his 1920s cottage here was gutted by Hurricane Sandynearly three years ago.

“If you believe we underpaid your claim,” it read, “you may be eligible for an additional payment.”

To FEMA, the message amounted to a rare acknowledgment to some 142,000 homeowners who filed claims with the agency after the storm that its procedures, which have been plagued by allegations of improprieties relating to engineering reports insurance companies relied upon, may have been seriously flawed. But to Mr. Lynch, who has been driven to the point of desperation by his dealings with one government entity after another, the message seemed like another mirage in his so-far futile quest to rebuild his home in Nassau County.

“This is the most painful thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Mr. Lynch, a 52-year-old Iraq war veteran, said. “I’d rather go back to Falluja.”

Mr. Lynch remains uncertain about whether he should reopen his claim, and he is hardly alone. With a Sept. 15 deadline less than a month away, only about 11,000 eligible homeowners have asked FEMA to look again at their cases, a number that one advocate described as “scary low.”

The anemic numbers are the latest testament to the bureaucratic morass that has gripped so many of Hurricane Sandy’s victims. Some have been suspicious of FEMA’s letter, which seemed to suggest that a new review of their claims could function like an audit, and potentially force them to repay the government. But most say, with an air of resignation and frustration, that they no longer have the energy to fill out more papers and to deal with more layers of officialdom, even though they could be forsaking tens of thousands of dollars. They are simply spent.

Photo

Mr. Lynch’s mailbox sits in a shrub near his home, where it was deposited by Hurricane Sandy almost three years ago. CreditKevin Hagen for The New York Times 

All over the region, homeowners, their advocates and elected officials have bitterly complained about the government programs meant to help people rebuild their homes and bolster them financially, declaring that the programs instead have been characterized by inexplicable delays and confusing directives. Even now, only a small fraction of homes destroyed by the 2012 hurricane have been rebuilt, and thousands of homeowners are occupying only partly rebuilt homes.

12 Aug 2015

Sandy victims may be leaving millions on the table

The review of flood insurance claims from superstorm Sandy has been bogged down in confusion and hesitation, according to a letter to FEMA from U.S. Senator Robert Menendez’s office.

Menendez, and perhaps eventually the entire New Jersey Congressional delegation, is asking the Federal Emergency Management Agency to push the deadline on the Sandy claims review process back three months to December 15.

“Thousands of homeowners still have countless questions about what information they need to provide and how they need to proceed in order to get every penny they’re entitled to,” reads the Democrat’s letter.

In March, FEMA announced that it would take another look at as many as 142,000 National Flood Insurance Program claims, including 74,000 in New Jersey.

Under the newly designed process, policyholders had to request a review, but many people are weary about interacting with FEMA again.

07 Aug 2015

A Summer Of Sandy Volunteerism Helps Local Homeowners

Frank Hagen of Cherry Quay, on left, watches as volunteers begin installing sheet rock as his ceiling. Next to Hagen are volunteers Dale Abraham, 21; Emily Clark, 23; and Elizabeth Gemignani, 25, on the ladder. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

Frank Hagen of Cherry Quay, on left, watches as volunteers begin installing sheet rock as his ceiling. Next to Hagen are volunteers Dale Abraham, 21; Emily Clark, 23; and Elizabeth Gemignani, 25, on the ladder. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

BRICK – Frank Hagen watched as about a dozen volunteers installed sheetrock in his Cherry Quay home, some three years after it was nearly destroyed by Superstorm Sandy.

Hagen, 54, and his wife, Theresa, were home during the storm when their house filled with four feet of water, while three houses behind theirs burned during a transformer fire.

“We lost everything. The street was full of furniture,” he recalled.

But almost three years later, the Hagens are among those helped by the United Way of Ocean County’s mostly young volunteers who are aiding in Sandy rebuilding efforts through AmeriCorps here in Brick and elsewhere locally.

A small ceremony was held recently on Hagen’s front lawn to thank and recognize the volunteers, who came from all over the United States.

The volunteers were young college students completing a “Summer of Service” as part of United Way of Ocean County’s ReBuild NJ AmeriCorps Program.

The volunteers would be wrapping up 300 hours of summer service, for which they receive a small living stipend and scholarship dollars, said Linda Gyimoty, Executive Director of the United Way of Ocean County.

28 Jul 2015

Sandy RREM recipients can’t yet sell their homes

TOMS RIVER – Leo Brancato learned the hard way that when you’re part of the RREM program, your home is not your own.

New Jersey says only 64 out of roughly 8,600 homes have been released from the Rehabilitation, Reconstruction, Elevation and Mitigation program, the state’s largest reconstruction program for homeowners trying to rebuild after superstorm Sandy.

Hundreds of those homes have been rebuilt and elevated, but a deed restriction, which is placed on all homes, remains for nearly all. While that deed restriction is in place, homeowners can’t sell their homes — even if they think they’re done with the program.

Most homeowners, like Brancato, don’t know that when they sign up for RREM, they’re allowing the state to severely curtail what they can do with the property.

Brancato spent months attempting to have the deed restriction released so he could sell his waterfront house. Although he had a certificate of occupancy and an elevation certificate that confirmed the house has been lifted to more than 13 feet above sea level, he was unable to persuade the state to lift the restriction until earlier this month — one year after reconstruction on his home was finished..

“I’ve jumped through all the hoops,” said Brancato, 63, in June. “I can’t get out of the RREM program.”

Every recipient of a RREM grant — 8,642 homeowners in New Jersey have been approved — signs something called the Declaration of Restrictive Covenant. As of July 17, only 64 homes had been released from the covenant and are truly out of the program, even though the state reports that 1,349 homes have been rebuilt — although not necessarily elevated yet — through RREM.

The covenant is meant to give the state leverage to demand that the work being paid for with federal money meets minimum federal, state and local home construction and environmental standards. The only ways to remove the restriction are to comply with the program’s requirements or pay back the grant.

That means that homeowners such as Brancato, who choose to act as their own general contractor through the program’s Pathway B, would be responsible for ensuring — and proving — that these standards have been satisfied and for setting up the final inspections. That’s where some avoidable delays originate, said Tammori Petty, a spokeswoman for the DCA.

24 Jul 2015

Up in the air: 1,000 days after Sandy

BOARDWALKS AND RAILWAYS ARE BACK UP BUT THOUSANDS OF FAMILIES REMAIN STUCK IN RECOVERY.

Sunday marked 1,000 days since superstorm Sandy began her rampage across the Shore.

Thousands of New Jersey families are still displaced. The state has been unable to match the pace of spending that Louisiana set in order to get its residents back in their homes after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

New Jersey has spent nearly $1.2 billion to rebuild or repair homes since the Oct.29-30, 2012 storm, or less than 20 percent of what Louisiana distributed in the same amount of time after Katrina, according to the latest figures filed by both states to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Rebuilding government and economic infrastructure has proceeded much faster. Nearly $2.4 billion has been spent to restore damaged railways, roads, marinas, water centers, town halls and boardwalks.

Those improvements are of little comfort to the thousands of Shore residents forced to move from rental home to rental home because of bottlenecks in the reconstruction process hampered by sluggish government agencies and programs.