Many South Shore homeowners are breathing easier thanks to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision last week to use money from the New York State Housing Recovery Program to compensate those whose homes were damaged by Hurricane Sandy, but whose flood insurance claims were rejected by the Federal Emergency Management Agency because the damage had been caused by “earth movement” rather than directly by floodwaters.
According to the regulations of FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program, damage caused by the movement of soil or earth — even if that movement is caused by flooding — is not eligible for coverage. The clause originated in the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, which made a number of changes in the way NFIP was administered in the wake of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of New Orleans and other areas of the gulf coast, which effectively wiped out the national flood insurance contingency fund.
After Sandy, Long Island homeowners began finding out about the earth-movement exception within two weeks of the inspections of their damaged or destroyed homes by FEMA officials. Letters from the agency, citing the law and making clear its financially devastating implications, left many in shock and disbelief. There would be no reimbursement for earth-movement damage from the federal government.
After trying to rally the support of local political leaders to find a way to help these homeowners out, Cuomo decided to act on his own, and announced that state funds would be made available to reimburse them. “It simply makes no sense that some New Yorkers, who were just as hard hit by the same storms as others, cannot be compensated for their losses,” the governor said at the Sept. 28 press conference at which he made the announcement.
We believe Cuomo did the right thing, and we congratulate him for taking action that will make it possible for thousands of New Yorkers to rebuild.
More, however, needs to be done.