Sandy victims grow weary

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The state asked federal mortgage underwriters Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to ease their rules to allow banks and mortgage servicers to release funds to homeowners. As a result, the Department of Financial Services said, the five large banks and mortgage servicers have begun releasing an estimated $70 million to $80 million to current borrowers as a result of the rule changes.

On Tuesday, however, the department identified 10 banks that have been slow to make insurance payments to Sandy victims.

“Everyone is waiting for insurance money at this point,” said Bryan Murphy, a real estate agent with Remax Innovations, who founded the Facebook page Sandy Help LB and a nonprofit organization aimed at helping homeowners rebuild. “Everyone is asking the same questions but can’t get answers, while trying to navigate through all of these grants, insurance and trying to find out whether you have to raise your home. It’s a full-time job.”

‘A bad dream’

East End resident Grace Maher said she was anxious to meet with her bank representative from OneWest, only to learn that it was not among the five. She said she has been waiting for insurance money to complete repairs to the first floor of her gutted home while she and her husband live upstairs.

“I had no complaint against Allstate,” she said, adding that she is now waiting for OneWest to endorse a check that was approved in mid-December. “I feel like it’s a bad dream that you can’t get out of. No matter how much you submit, the paperwork changes every time. It’s 10 times worse than doing your income taxes.”

Maher and others described a daunting process that involves submitting copies of paid permits, repair estimates and waivers of liens from contractors.

East Hudson Street resident Vincent Leis, 34, who pays $1,400 per year for flood insurance,said he went down to the Ice Arena to meet with a Wells Fargo representative. Leis, a teacher at Baldwin High School, said he wanted to meet with someone in person because he had no luck on the phone when he was told that the W-9 form he had sent was unreadable and that the bank couldn’t process his insurance check.

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