The Freedmans are among the many Long Beach homeowners who, nearly five months after the storm, are still waiting for money from either their insurance companies or banks that they desperately need to rebuild. “We’ve been paying flood insurance all these years,” Marian said. “I pay my bills on time and they give us the run-around. I had one insurance guy do everything — he submitted the information and now we need another one. Everybody else’s homes are done. My neighbors are ready to move in. We need the money to get this thing done.”
A sluggish pace
Many residents say they continue to battle with their insurance companies and adjusters, arguing that the damage to their homes is being undervalued. Many say they are waiting for their banks to sign off on reimbursement checks.
According to FEMA, $2.95 billion in National Flood Insurance Program payments have been made to policyholders in New York. But last month, the state’s Department of Financial Services found that banks were holding more than $200 million in insurance funds due Sandy victims.
At the department’s request, representatives from five of New York’s largest banks — JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, CitiMortgage and Ocwen Loan Services — visited Long Beach’s Ice Arena two weeks ago to help residents who are seeking the release of insurance settlement funds.
“They took my information and wrote everything down. Now I have to wait to find out what’s going to happen,” Freedman said. “It was positive … they said they were going to try to help, but I can’t get specific answers.”
According to the Department of Financial Services, an insurer typically issues checks jointly, to a homeowner and his or her mortgage bank or servicer, after the settlement of a large insurance claim. That means the bank needs to endorse the check before the homeowner may access the funds. Dual endorsement is a standard requirement, and banks may also require proof that repairs have been made before they endorse checks.