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All posts in 2015

15 Jul 2015

Sandy victims get second chance with flood claim reveiws

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.pastedGraphic.png

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

Posted: Wednesday, July 15, 2015 8:00 pm

TYLER R. TYNES, Staff Writer

Contact: 609-272-7260

Twitter @TylerRickyTynes

03 Jul 2015

Sandy recovery money showing up inland | Di Ionno

The newest affordable housing project completed with federal Hurricane Sandy recovery funds is in downtown Orange. A block away, another is in the works.

They’re 7 miles from where Sandy’s tidal surge backed up the Passaic River and swamped blocks of Newark’s Ironbound.

They’re 42 miles from Union Beach, where tsunami-like waves from the Raritan Bay wrecked three-quarters of the 2,400 homes in town.

And 81 miles from Ortley Beach, where the Atlantic pounded the ocean-side homes to rubble while Barnegat Bay flooded those on the other.

Of the seven families moving into the new Orange development – which got a $1.5 million federal Sandy grant – none lost their homes in the hurricane.

We found that nearly 40 percent of the people impacted by Sandy were renters.” — Kevin Walsh, housing advocate
29 Jun 2015

Will Sandy recovery help or hurt Christie? | Di Ionno

Today, Jon Bon Jovi is hosting a $1,000-a-plate fundraiser for Hillary Clinton in his French Chateau overlooking the Navesink River. It’s a mile from Jyll Jakes’ neighborhood in Sea Bright, where every other house remains boarded up.

“It’s a still mess down here. I think people have forgotten how bad it is,” said Jakes, who credits the Salvation Army, not the state, for “keeping me alive.”

Tomorrow, Gov. Chris Christie will announce his candidacy for President in Livingston, a town not far from the meandering Passaic River, which keeps Fairfield, Wayne, Lincoln Park and Little Falls on red alert after a day or two of heavy rain.

In the coming months, it will be interesting to see if Clinton or Christie or any other candidates make fixing FEMA a campaign issue.

 They should. The numbers – and news – reminds us that cataclysmic flooding can hit anybody.

I think he’s only vulnerable among people who are still out of their homes or slow to go back.” — Patrick Murray.
26 Jun 2015

Sandy recovery: another summer of discontent | Di Ionno

Nearly 9,000 families in the state’s Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) program are not in their primary homes.

That number doesn’t include people not in the program – those who didn’t qualify, or missed deadlines or were told their paperwork was lost and just gave up. It doesn’t include people who are trying to rebuild on their own.

The truth is no one knows the real number.

“For every one of our clients in the RREM, we have at least one not in the program,” said Sue Marticek, head of Ocean County’s Long Term Recovery Group, which disburses aid from a variety of funds. “I’d say, conservatively, there are 20,000 families out of their primary homes.”

I went from being a homeowner and manager of a restaurant to being a homeless, unemployed bag lady.” — Joan Wujcik

15 Jun 2015

Menendez: flood insurance review designed to be efficient, fair

Sen. Robert Menendez had a message Monday for an audience of Sandy survivors skeptical about reopening their flood insurance claims: the process is designed to be both efficient and fair.

“I believe this is an opportunity to get it right this time, and to put money in people’s pockets who deserve it,” said Menendez, D-N.J. He was speaking at a forum sponsored by Legal Services of New Jersey and Volunteer Lawyers for Justice, two groups that offer free legal help to storm victims who are considering whether to participate in the flood insurance review process.

“You deserve an insurance system that works for you. You deserve better,” Menendez told an audience of Sandy survivors and nonprofit employees.

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.

Possible fraud aside, homeowners on the Shore and elsewhere have complained that they were lowballed by their insurers.

12 Jun 2015


Advocates for property owners caution that chance to get more federal money could have strings attached


Sandy Maglio and her husband Louis stand on the back deck of their home in Beach Haven West, which was damaged during Sandy.

Sitting with her husband on the back deck of their home on a quiet cul-de-sac in the Beach Haven West section of Stafford Township, Sandy Maglio looks out on a channel where her neighbors park their recreational boats. It was this proximity to the water that first drew them to the community 45 years ago, and in the decades that followed, the thought rarely occurred to them that flooding could be a problem.

Even when Sandy was headed their way, they expected maybe six or seven inches of water — nowhere near the 3-foot-high surge that ended up washing through their living room and undermining their foundation.

Two-and-a-half years later, Maglio has managed to elevate her house and move back in, but she still has an entire cabinet filled with important documents related to the storm.

“This is all from building, this is insurance, this is paperwork for lifting, for the lawyer, receipts …” she explained, rifling through the stack recently.

“And then this pile is just memorabilia: all the newspaper clippings to save for the future.”

11 Jun 2015

Menendez: Beware ‘scam artist’ Sandy lawyers

What’s the difference between a lawyer and a scam artist? Not much, says U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, at least when it comes to those attorneys and others charging to guide superstorm Sandy victims through a new flood insurance claims review process.

New Jersey’s senior senator, himself a former attorney, issued a warning Thursday morning to policyholders who filed a claim after Sandy and may be eligible for more money through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Flood Insurance Program claims review process.

The alert, which came in the form of a news release, cautions homeowners to be leery of “scam-artists offering to help them navigate (the process) in exchange for a substantial cut of any supplemental flood insurance payout they could get.”

FEMA has pitched the review procedure — in which as many as 142,000 post-Sandy claims could be given a second look — as one that does not require the services of attorney.

“You don’t need a middleman taking 30 percent of what you’re already entitled to and been waiting too long to receive,” Menendez said in the statement. “You have every right to have an attorney, and there are organizations that will offer free services to ensure that you get 100 percent of what is owed to you.”

10 Jun 2015

Should you hire lawyer for Sandy insurance claim?

Should you hire a lawyer to assist you with a review of your flood-insurance claim?

Three New Jersey groups that are offering free legal counseling for storm victims suggest you speak to them first.

“They don’t need to pay an attorney to do this,” Alayna Berg, a forensic social worker with Legal Services of New Jersey, told Ocean County disaster advocates on June 4. “This is not something that is so scary. There are three organizations that are willing to give information for free. Please try that first.”

Legal Services of NJ will join with the Community Health Law Project and Volunteer Lawyers for Justice to offer a free forum on the National Flood Insurance Program and the review process for flood insurance claims from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, June 13 at the Toms River Municipal Building, 33 Washington St.

But after more than 2 1/2 years of fighting for more flood insurance money, some Sandy victims don’t believe they’ll get a fair review from FEMA without the help of a lawyer.

Don’t go it alone

George Kasimos, founder of the Sandy watchdog group Stop FEMA Now, believes that Sandy victims are better off hiring a lawyer to represent them.

“I am of the firm belief that you should not go this alone,” Kasimos said. “People who just pick up the phone and do this themselves, I don’t think they will get the maximum they are entitled to.”

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.

26 May 2015

Sandy rental aid program raises monthly payments

Superstorm Sandy victims who need temporary housing while their homes are being repaired or elevated will now be able to get up to $1,300 a month for rental assistance.

That’s $475 more than the original monthly limit in the Rental Assistance Program, which was launched in March by the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA). Eligible homeowners can now get up to nine months of rental assistance. There was initially a six-month limit.

Lisa Ryan, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Community Affairs, said HMFA has found that program applicants are facing higher rental costs than originally projected, and that some will be out of their homes for longer periods of time. As a result, the agency decided to raise the amount homeowners can seek each month, and also give three additional months’ help.

“As a result, the Agency decided to make more assistance available for a longer period of time in order to better address the situation” families are actually experiencing, she said.

Additional information, including a program overview, frequently asked questions, and the program application form is available online. Applicants who do not have access to a computer can contact 1-800-NJHOUSE for assistance.

When the program was announced in February, it was welcomed by Sandy recovery advocates.

The majority of requests received by Ocean County’s Long-Term Recovery Group are from homeowners seeking assistance with rental payments while they repair their homes. It’s now more than 30 months after Sandy struck, and many homeowners no longer have the financial resources to pay for a rental while still making mortgage payments on their damaged homes.

14 May 2015

Another homeless summer for some Sandy victims | Di Ionno

It’s almost summer and the Jersey Shore people left homeless by Hurricane Sandy are on the move again, leaving winter rentals as seasonal rents skyrocket.

“It’s a problem up and down the coast,” said Amanda Devecka-Rinear of the New Jersey Organizing Project, which helps people bound in the red tape of Sandy recovery. “We’re talking about a lot of people.”

How many?

Nobody knows.

“Because of the range of assistance programs being administered by different governmental agencies and nongovernmental organizations, it is difficult to know how many Sandy-impacted residents are still on rental assistance, much less how many are in seasonal rentals,” said Lisa Ryan of the state Department of Community Affairs, the lead agency in the Sandy recovery.

We’re seeing people who have moved four or five times.’ — Susan Marticek, Ocean County Long Term Recovery Group