Rallying against FEMA ‘loophole’

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At the rally, Dave Charles, a claims adjuster specializing in disaster relief, called the National Flood Insurance Program “bad law” that uses the earth-movement exclusion to avoid paying claims, and that Congress ultimately has to change the policy. He said that recent reforms in the program, which is $25 billion in debt, have placed the burden on policyholders.

“They’re sending engineers out there that are phoning it in,” Charles said. “Then they give you the false hope of an appeal — I don’t know a single person who appealed through the normal process and was successful. It’s just the biggest mess I’ve ever seen.”

Long Beach residents Ron and Debbie Gialanze — who have been renting a home in Levittown — hired an attorney after their claim was denied. Sandy destroyed their East Pine Street home, and flooding from Reynolds Channel damaged its foundation.

The Gialanzes had a $250,000 flood insurance policy with Fidelity, but received only $70,000. The company refused to pay the full value of their policy, which would have allowed them to demolish the house and rebuild.

“People don’t realize that they’re being affected,” Debbie Gialanze said. “Maybe they weren’t affected this time around, but when the next flood comes, they will be affected.”

Though the Gialanzes were approved for a Small Business Administration loan, Debbie said they want to avoid taking on more debt.

In April, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development allocated $1.7 billion in community development block grant funds to the New York Rising grant program, to be used for storm relief and for elevating and rebuilding homes. Gialanze said that she was “finally” set to meet with a case manager from New York Rising last week, and if she is approved, she hopes the money will help her rebuild.

“I have two folders worth of paperwork,” she said. “We’ll see what happens. We just paid off our mortgage and I don’t want to do this again.”

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