Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced emergency measures Thursday he said will expedite insurance claims spurred by superstorm Sandy.
The governor called the insurance coverage issue "probably the largest single hurdle people are facing" in their attempts to get their homes repaired.
"They can't just get insurance companies to respond," the governor said. "They can't get the construction started."
Cuomo unveiled three "emergency" regulations that will go into effect immediately:
Insurance companies will now have just six days, instead of 15 allowed under law, to get an adjuster to a site after a homeowner reports a claim. Insurance companies face a penalty of $1,000 "per occurrence" if the measure is violated, Cuomo said.
Homeowners can begin repairs even before an adjuster arrives "if there is a health or safety issue." In that case, the homeowner must keep records, receipts and photographs, he said.
The state will expedite temporary licenses to qualified, out-of-state adjusters to increase the number of insurance personnel available to homeowners.
In addition, the state Department of Financial Services will post on its website a report card on insurance companies, grading companies on the number of claims handled and closed, average home inspection times and the number of consumer complaints, among other factors.
Cuomo said there are 360,000 claims, a "historic volume of problems."
"We've never had this demand in this short a period of time before," he said.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said: "The need to speed up the process is clearly evident. Residents and businesses want to rebuild and return to normalcy and cannot based on the inability of the insurance companies to expeditiously process their claims."
Cuomo said he met with insurance representatives, and understands the volume of claims companies have to handle -- but said he expects them to do their job.
Officials of the National Flood Insurance Program have said they expect losses from Sandy to total between $6 billion and $12 billion, with as many as 143,000 claims. About 81,000 homeowners and businesses on Long Island have federal flood insurance worth $22 billion.
But the program itself has just $840 million in cash and $2.9 billion borrowing capacity, an amount a program administrator said soon will be depleted.
Also Thursday, a commission empaneled by the governor to investigate utilities' preparations for and response to the storm sent information inquiries to the Port Authority and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, officials disclosed. The commission asked for details on how well utilities communicated with the two transportation agencies.
With Gary Dymski