Rallying against FEMA ‘loophole’

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“She cannot rebuild because of this ridiculous exception,” Mangano said of Mittleman. “Her family is now forced to live in a one-bedroom apartment. Ten months after Sandy, this exclusion is stopping her from getting back in her home. Unacceptable. We call on FEMA to immediately stop this ridiculous clause.”

Mittleman’s flood insurance coverage, with Fidelity, totaled $180,000, but to date, she said, she has received only half of that. She was told that the home had a pre-existing settling condition, after Fidelity’s engineer’s report noted some cracks in the sidewalk in front of the house after the storm.

Mittleman hired her own engineer, who refuted the report. She submitted her own report in April, but in June, she said, FEMA made a determination that Fidelity was correct, and her claim was denied.

“What the federal government has done is downright fraud,” Mittleman said. “We paid our policies for years. We paid thousands of dollars, and we all know our houses were filled with floodwater. Who are they kidding?”

U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand have called on FEMA to change the earth-movement provision, review any denials and pay the claims retroactively. In an Aug. 29 letter to FEMA administrator Craig Fugate, Schumer wrote, “It is extremely troubling that the federal government would use this loophole to deny benefits to homeowners whose homes were destroyed or upended. I understand that many of these denied homeowners obtained engineering reports, at their own expense, substantiating that the structure was compromised due to flooding, not earth movement.”

FEMA has yet to respond to Schumer’s letter. A spokesman for the agency, Dan Watson, told the Herald last month that its top priority is to provide assistance to those in need as quickly as possible, “while also meeting our requirements under the law.” He added that when an insurer denies all or part of a claim, the policyholder may appeal that denial directly to FEMA.

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