FEMA meeting gets heated

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Another man stepped to the microphone to complain about changing construction estimates from his flood insurance company. He said that a first estimate was later reduced by nearly 22 percent, and that others on his block were given different rates for materials and labor than he was. When he pressed the company for an explanation, his case was closed the next day. He asked the panel why his estimates had been reduced when he had heard that the rates for such work in the Long Beach area have increased since the storm.

“I can’t answer that — I don’t know,” said Diana Kidder, a hazard mitigation insurance task force leader for FEMA and NFIP. Pressed further, she said, “I can’t make up the answer for you.”

The crowd quickly grew tired of the representatives’ responses. Someone called out, “What’s the point of this?” Someone else added, “Then what are we doing here?” Panel members asked some of the questioners to give them their names, and told them they would get answers within 48 hours.

Their experiences with insurance companies appeared to have made residents hesitant to fight them. “We’re afraid of getting penalized,” said one woman who refused to give any information to the panel.

One couple said that when their neighbors and friends tried to fight back against their insurance companies, or were quoted in newspaper stories, they were unable to get in touch with agents from that point on.

The panel did provide information about FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. As the recovery process continues for residents in high-risk flood zones, they are encouraged to protect themselves from future storm damage by either elevating their homes or razing them and relocating, which FEMA can help pay for.

Through another agency program that was detailed at the forum, Increased Cost of Compliance coverage, a homeowner can receive up to $30,000 to help with mitigation if the damage was more than 50 percent of the home’s value. Residents were told they could sign up with the city’s Building Department to be considered, and the department would allocate the money accordingly.

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