That’s the message the Ocean County Long-Term Recovery Group wants to stress to Sandy victims who have not yet opted to reopen their flood insurance claim.
The group has been holding clinics throughout the state aimed at helping residents decide whether to reopen their flood claim through FEMA. Sue Marticek, executive director of the long-term recovery group, said earlier this month that about 90 percent of the Sandy victims who have sought help with a claim review are owed money.
The next clinic is set for 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 29, at the Middletown Library, 55 New Monmouth Road. Appointments are recommended. Call (732) 569-3484, ext. 24. Walk-ins are also welcome, and will be seen on a first-come, first-served, basis.
Advocates like Marticek fear that homeowners, many of whom are distrustful of the process, may opt not to reopen their claims, passing up substantial amounts of money. In some cases that money could make the difference for homeowners struggling to find the funds to rebuild, she said.
FEMA agreed last week to extend the deadline for requesting a flood claim review to Oct. 15, following intense lobbying by New Jersey’s Congressional delegate and storm recovery advocates.
But many homeowners have so far chosen not to seek a review. To reopen a claim, call 1-866-337-4262 or go to www.fema.gov/hurricane-sandy-nfip-claims.
As of Sept. 22, 26,169 people have called FEMA’s claim review hotline or downloaded a review application from the agency’s website. Of that number, 15,456 have been found eligible for review, according to FEMA spokesman Rafael Lemaitre.
The average payment so far has been about $16,000, but that only represents what has been approved. As of last week, only 27 checks had been cut so far and just 825 out of 14,201 reviews had reached the payment stage. The agency had initially promised a 90-day turnaround for payments.
In March, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that 142,000 Sandy victims would get a second chance at making a flood insurance claim if they felt they had been cheated by their flood insurance provider. About 73,000 of those victims live in New Jersey.
The review was ordered by FEMA after evidence emerged of a potentially widespread scheme to fundamentally change the engineering reports that insurance companies rely on to determine if a structural damage claim is paid out.
Reports that blamed the post-Sandy damage on earth movement or house settling were often used to deny coverage.
Jean Mikle: (732) 643-4050, firstname.lastname@example.org