Tuesday, October 1, 2013

NJ Sandy stories: Stingy insurers, bungling bureaucrats

Senator Bob Smith and Assemblywoman L. Grace Singer discuss
why their environmental committees are conducting public hearings
and what they learned at their most recent session yesterday in Trenton


Frustrated home and business owners, association execs and environmental organizations lined up yesterday in Trenton to tell their stories at the New Jersey Legislature's third hearing on the status of  the state's Superstorm Sandy recovery efforts.

We attended the hearing and thought Associated Press reporter Wayne Parry nicely summed up much of the testimony with his lead: "The water came in torrents; the aid
is being parceled out drip by drip."

Joanne Gwin of Toms River got $101,000 on a $250,000 flood insurance policy, and she wonders why.
"Why can't the insurance companies write us a check for the policy we paid for?" she asked. "We have a need for that money and we only received 40 percent of what we need to rebuild our home."
Kathleen Fisher of Ventnor said when her small insurance check arrived, it took three months for her mortgage company to sign it. She said the response of those who are supposed to help has been numbing.
"Nobody showed any kind of compassion for any of us," she said. "We're treated like criminals, like we're trying to get something for nothing when we're just trying to get the insurance money we thought was due to us."
The target of many of the complaints yesterday was the state's Rehabilitation, Reconstruction, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) program that is supposed to provide individual property owners with up to $150,000 in grants for rebuilding or home elevations. State officials concede, however, that the program so far has not paid out a dime to Sandy victims, many of whom are still living in rental properties or are crammed into small livable portions of their damaged houses while they wait for repairs.

Officials blame the delay on paperwork-processing safeguards designed to limit the over-payments and fraud that plagued a similar FEMA program following Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

Critics counter that the state hired inexperienced workers each of whom have received only a few hours of training and consequently are fumbling
many of the applications for assistance.  

In the video interviews below, Adam Gordon, an attorney with Fair Share Housing Center, and Staci Berger, executive director of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey recapped for EnviroPolitics Blog what they told legislators about problems their clients are encountering in Sandy's aftermath.

Related environmental news stories:
Sandy victims say they are tired of waiting; need answers now 
Storm victims want help with insurers, bureaucrats  
Insurance claim delays are prompting some Sandy victims to sue

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