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Insurance delays prolong the disaster


Hurricane Sandy attacked without mercy, leaving more than a million Long Islanders without power and wrecking tens of thousands of homes near the shoreline. Then a second disaster struck.

With little or no money to start repair work, hundreds of homeowners were left powerless to rebuild their battered homes. The Federal Emergency Management Agency stepped in quickly, offering aid where it could. Those without flood insurance were often given FEMA grants to begin repairing the damage.

Strangely enough, however, many homeowners with flood insurance received little or nothing from their insurance companies early on. Some companies sent out checks for a couple of thousand dollars –– not even enough to pay for a home to be gutted of its sheetrock and insulation. In other cases, companies have yet to send the first dollar.

That left homeowners in a precarious situation. They could burn through emergency money to make repairs –– if they had emergency money — or take on credit card debt. Or do nothing.

Many, having no financial options, did nothing, leaving their saltwater-soaked houses to mold over and rot out. Relief volunteers have helped the most desperate clean out their homes. But things shouldn’t be this way. Homeowners who have long carried flood insurance shouldn’t have to beg their insurers for the money they immediately — desperately — need to get back on their feet after a disaster on this scale.

A number of insurance companies claim they are overwhelmed by the magnitude of Sandy, and that there are simply too many claims to process efficiently. People, they say, just have to be patient to receive their final settlements. But with winter bearing down on us –– and with many homeowners still without heat, their furnaces and boilers ruined in the flood –– that’s easier said than done.

To date, we have heard little outrage from Albany. Governor Cuomo set up a page on the New York State Department of Financial Services’ website that allows homeowners to track how many storm claims their insurance companies have processed. As of Dec. 8 — nearly six seeks after Sandy hit — here’s how the major companies were doing:

• Allstate –– 24,000 of 74,000 claims processed and settled.

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