“How many of you had damage to your primary dwellings?” Raines asked. Dozens of hands went up. “You need to register. There are case workers here to help you,” he said, pointing to the handful of FEMA workers seated at computers around the room. “We will listen to you on a case-by-case basis.”
Small Business Assocation Public Affairs Specialist Robert Galassi said that his agency could provide up to $200,000 to homeowners and $40,000 to renters, each at an interest rate of 1.68 percent, and up to $2 million to businesses, at a rate of 4 percent.
“What we offer you is a long-term, low-interest home loan that will hopefully bring your house back to its original state,” Galassi said, adding that more than $1 billion in loans had already been approved in New York State, $400 million of that in Nassau County, one of the hardest-hit areas. “Insurance doesn’t cover all the damages. We suggest that you allow us to give you the opportunity for this loan. You can turn it down once it’s approved. You have six months to do so.”
Some Bay Park and Island Park residents said they were not clear on how to proceed with hazard mitigation — in this case, raising their homes — but FEMA reps urged them to be patient. “If you raise your house up today,” said Farr, “you will not be able to take advantage of money that will be available down the road.”
“That’s not easy to do,” one woman said of the advice to be patient, “since we’re homeless.”
A woman from Bay Park asked about being reimbursed for damage to her basement, which was flooded by six feet of water. “There’s a limitation of coverage with basements,” Farr said. “Only 17 items are covered in a basement, including electrical panels, boilers … anything that services the rest of the building. Floors and windows are not covered.”
He recommended that she raise her electric panel and move her water heater to a main floor. “There are things you can do to mitigate your loss,” Farr said. “We’re hoping we can develop a plan so you don’t have to wait a year.”
A man said that he was informed by his insurance company that his rates would be going up 25 percent per year “until full premium rate.” “How can this happen?” he asked. “When will it stop?”