For Sandy victims, promises aren't enough

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Also in February, FEMA said that it had settled more than 50 percent of the roughly 56,000 flood claims in New York. But at a forum hosted by FEMA officials in Long Beach last month, residents complained about wildly incorrect insurance assessments, weeks of unreturned phone calls from insurers and conflicting information from different agencies.

Residents in high-risk flood zones are being told that in order to protect their homes from future storms, they need to either elevate them or raze them, which FEMA can help pay for through the agency’s Increased Cost of Compliance coverage. But mitigation aid could take at least a year to receive, though FEMA says it is trying to expedite the process. Many displaced homeowners worry that they may not receive the funding until after their rental assistance expires. Those who choose not to raise or demolish their homes, meanwhile, will have to pay as much as $9,500 a year in flood insurance.

We hope the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grants for disaster recovery assistance will be allocated more quickly. We applaud Sen. Charles Schumer for working tirelessly to ensure that the Sandy disaster-relief legislation included $16 billion in CDBG funds, which he described as a better stream of funding than FEMA or flood insurance to help eligible residents rebuild.

New York state’s Department of Financial Services has arranged for representatives from five of New York’s largest banks to visit Long Beach and other areas this week to provide one-on-one assistance to homeowners seeking the release of Sandy-related insurance settlement funds or to help those struggling with mortgage payments.

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