BRIGANTINE — Years after Hurricane Sandy, Atlantic County residents are still reeling from the damage the storm did to their properties.
But there are still opportunities for homeowners to get help making repairs. Sandy victims unsatisfied with their flood insurance claim settlements can request a review through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The Brigantine Community Center held a free workshop for residents to understand how they might be able to get some money back.
Robert DeClementi, 58, of Brigantine, didn’t know whether his insurance company would be liable for $150,000 difference for his house from his state grant. Without Wednesday’s workshop, he would have been in the dark about his finances.
“So many things the (workshop) said could be fixed, the insurance company told me wasn’t covered,” he said. “I’m lucky to have this today. It was a big help.”
The event, coordinated by Volunteer Lawyers for Justice, Brigstrong, the Ocean County Long Term Recovery Group and Legal Services of New Jersey, was aimed at guiding homeowners through FEMA’s Sandy claims review.
Landowners were shown a 14-step timeline that policyholders who have already filed for assistance would be taken through if they chose to opt in and request a review of their claims.
But it is up to the individual policyholder to opt in to have the claim reopened and independently reviewed.
Policyholders would receive a letter from the National Flood Insurance Program and must choose to participate within 90 days of receiving the letter or before Sept. 15. The process should lead to additional funds for policyholders if they follow the steps correctly.
Jessica Limbacher, 28, an attorney with Volunteer Lawyers for Justice, a nonprofit based in Newark that provides legal assistance statewide, was optimistic for those who wanted to request a FEMA review.
Limbacher called this Phase 1 of the work they are trying to accomplish for Atlantic County residents.
“The chances they get money back is uncertain, but FEMA has made it clear they want to correct mistakes they made,” she said. “It’s likely people who opt in will get something additional.”
She said the process can be done without a lawyer, but they are available to assist people in need.
The process to request a claim review is only for people who don’t have cases currently in litigation.
Steven Sandbery, press secretary to U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said FEMA has assured the senator that the claims process was made with the policyholder in mind and should be quick and easy.
“The senator would encourage any Sandy survivor who feels they were lowballed on their flood-insurance claim to take advantage of this rare second opportunity to get what they deserve,” he wrote in an email to The Press.
Alexander Hersonski from South Jersey Legal Services reassured the dozens in attendance that as long as they needed help, they had people in their corner.
“It isn’t a characteristic of ‘if,’” he told the crowd about their requests for their flood insurance claims to be reviewed. “This is going to happen (for you).”
Policyholders who would like to file for a claim review should call 866-337-4262 or go to FEMA.gov.
Posted: Wednesday, July 15, 2015 8:00 pm
TYLER R. TYNES, Staff Writer