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Christie helps many NJ towns mark Sandy anniversary

Source: ABC Local From: October 29th, 2013

A year after Superstorm Sandy pummeled his state, Gov. Chris Christie said he is celebrating how far New Jersey has come since the storm and pledged not to forget the thousands who still cannot go back home yet.

Visiting a flood-damaged firehouse in Seaside Park, with bare sheet rock and dangling wires, the governor said Tuesday is a day to remember volunteers and first responders who risked their lives to save others. Christie, who stayed overnight at the governor's beach house in neighboring Island Beach State Park, said he woke up Tuesday morning and was struck by "just how much different we all feel a year later."

"I want us to think of how much better things look today than they did a year ago, and celebrate that," Christie said. "We also have to acknowledge that there's still thousands of people out of their homes. For them, it doesn't matter that there are tens of thousands of people back in their homes. I can't break faith with these people. Until they're back home, we can't forget them. We are all not whole until everybody individually is whole."
Christie is expected to be easily re-elected next week after a campaign in which he touted his handling of the storm aftermath as one of his main accomplishments. But he also has come under fire from Sandy victims who complain that a year later, they have gotten little or no money from a multitude of federal and state aid programs.

One of them is Debbie Fortier of Brick, who came to Seaside Park to meet the governor. Walking out arm-in-arm with him after he had finished speaking at the firehouse, she told Christie how her family's house had to be torn down and how her family has yet to receive any aid.
"We're physically, emotionally and spiritually just drained," she said after Christie left. "Does anybody hear us?"

She said she is on a waiting list "for everything," and is particularly bitter that her family started to repair their storm-damaged house, only to have inspectors later tell them it was too badly damaged to fix. They then had to knock it down and move into a friend's basement.

"How long am I supposed to wait?" she asked. "It's been a year. You can't just not move forward."

Yet Fortier said she takes Christie at his word that help is on the way - whenever that might be.

Also on Tuesday, the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund, chaired by the governor's wife, Mary Pat Christie, announced eight new grants to nonprofit organizations to be used for housing assistance, mental health programs and social services. So far the fund has handed out $19.2 million to 80 organizations involved in storm recovery.

Homeowners Hit By Sandy Get More Time To Appeal Settlements

Date Posted: October 2nd, 2013 By: Scott Gurian, NJ Spotlight

Sandy survivors still battling over their flood insurance claims will now have more time to appeal their settlements.

In a bulletin issued yesterday FEMA announced it will extend for another six months the period for Sandy-impacted homeowners to file Proof of Loss forms, which are the first step in appealing a flood insurance settlement. The window after previous natural disasters has never been longer than a year, so this extension is an unprecedented move. It comes after pressure from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Late last week, nearly two dozen Senators and members of Congress from New York and New Jersey -- including Senators Robert Menendez and Jeff Chiesa and Representatives Jon Runyan, Frank LoBiondo, Rob Andrews, Bill Pascrell and Rodney Frelinghuysen -- signed on to a letter to FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate. In it, they argued that many of their constituents have been mired in bureaucratic red tape and are only just starting the recovery process, so they need more time to complete the paperwork.

“While we are aware that FEMA has the authority to approve on a case-by-case basis claims submitted after the one-year deadline,” the letter stated, “we believe that a blanket extension for every homeowner should be in place to ensure a fair and proper process for everyone. To deny these claims based purely on the timing of their paperwork pulls the rug out from underneath homeowners who are relying on their flood insurance policies to repair and rebuild their homes.”

According to FEMA – which runs the National Flood Insurance Program -- 99 percent of all Sandy-related claims are now closed.

But the private insurance companies that manage the policies typically consider cases “closed” after they’ve issued their payouts, even though policyholders often continue to file appeals. Indeed, a recent NJ Spotlight survey of people’s experiences dealing with their flood insurance companies has so far yielded dozens of negative responses, with complaints ranging from lost paperwork to adjuster errors to insurance companies claiming that damage pre-existed the storm. While the results of the survey are in no way scientific, they offer compelling anecdotal evidence that even a year after Sandy, many problems persist.

New Jersey lawmakers contacted yesterday by NJ Spotlight applauded FEMA’s move, with Senator Chiesa calling it a “commonsense extension” that will “help New Jerseyans still struggling with the lengthy process of rebuilding.”

Senator Menendez issued a statement that he was pleased with the decision. “This will give the victims hit the hardest by the storm enough time to provide the necessary documentation to prove their claim and get the money they’re entitled to,” he wrote.

And Congressman Pascrell noted that "Many homeowners that were devastated by Sandy were only made aware of additional expenses once the rebuilding process started. This extension will provide families with the additional time needed to ensure a fair process in filing their flood insurance claims and receiving the full benefits they are entitled to," he said.

The memorandum applies to Sandy-impacted homeowners in all the affected states who suffered losses between October 25th and November 6th, 2012. FEMA is now giving them until the end of April and says it will monitor claim activity to determine whether further extensions may be warranted.

President signs bill approving flood insurance rollbacks

Posted: March 21st, 2014 Source: NJ.COM Magazine

President Obama signed legislation today, fast tracked by Congress last week, that rolls back scheduled increases in federal flood insurance.

The new law caps annual rate increases and repeals provisions eliminating flood insurance subsidies on existing properties for home buyers at the time of sale.

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), one of the sponsors of the legislation, called it a tremendous victory for thousands of New Jersey homeowners who were facing skyrocketing flood insurance costs. He said the planned increases, due to take effect next year, would have further threatened the state's recovery from Hurricane Sandy and jeopardized the financial security of thousands of residents.

Congress took up the issue after Hurricane Sandy, as homeowners began raising concerns over mandated changes in the National Flood Insurance Program implemented in 2012 meant to make the program more financially stable.

Those reforms under the Biggert-Waters Act, which had passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, had called for rates reflecting the true cost of flood risk. But the new rules led to big premium increases for policyholders who complained they end of the subsidies would force them from their homes.

Under the bill signed by the president today, annual rate increases in flood insurance will be capped at an average of 15 percent, with a maximum of 18 percent for primary homeowners. Secondary homeowners can still see their premiums rise by 25 percent a year.

In New Jersey, 243,649 homeowners are now covered by federally subsidized flood insurance, according to the National Flood Insurance Program, with the vast bulk of those policies in Ocean, Atlantic and Cape May counties.

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