For Sandy victims, promises aren't enough


More than four months after Hurricane Sandy, many homes along the South Shore remain in shambles. Countless businesses still have not reopened. Though the debris is mostly gone, vacant homes and decimated infrastructure, such as the Long Beach boardwalk, are constant reminders that the road to recovery in many communities will be a long one. Officials say that approximately 20 to 30 percent of Long Beach’s 33,000 residents are still displaced, and that more than 200 homes in that city alone need to be rebuilt.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency acted wisely by granting a 30-day extension for people to register for federal disaster assistance, and by announcing that its disaster recovery center in Long Beach would remain open until March 27.

Since the storm, displaced residents staying in hotels or receiving rental assistance have remained in a precarious situation: Only as each deadline looms are many informed — often on the same day — that they have been granted an extension.

It has been more than a month since Congress approved a $60 billion disaster aid package, yet many homeowners say they have yet to receive the necessary funds — whether through government programs or their insurance companies — to repair or rebuild their homes. Federal flood insurance claims are being paid too slowly, and it’s time to cut the red tape so that people can come home and resume their lives.

Though FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration say they have approved more than $2 billion in direct assistance to homeowners, renters and businesses in New York state — including more than $60 million in FEMA grants approved for individuals and households in Long Beach — many residents have voiced their frustration with the slow reimbursement process, particularly when it comes to their flood insurance policies.

Last month, the New York State Department of Financial Services found that banks were holding more than $200 million in insurance funds due Sandy victims, and the department has urged banks to speed the release of those funds.

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