Sandy victims seeking housing recovery funds demand fair compensation
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More than 100 superstorm Sandy victims rallied outside the Nassau County legislative building in Mineola on Saturday to demand fair compensation from the government to rebuild their homes.
"Show us the money!" said Michele Mittleman, who founded the grassroots group Sandy Victims Fighting FEMA after the storm destroyed her Freeport home. "The government is doing an awful job."
The protesters criticized the Federal Emergency Management Agency and NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program, which is financed by FEMA and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. They said the state program has promised them far less money than they need in order to rebuild.
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NY Rising has sent out 4,300 award letters to Sandy-scarred property owners in Nassau and Suffolk, and the application process is still open, said Barbara Brancaccio, a spokeswoman for the state Office of Storm Recovery.
The average award has been $112,000, she said, defending the process as efficient.
"It happened as quickly as it could have," Brancaccio said.
But many at the rally said they can't get full assistance from NY Rising because they took out low-interest Small Business Administration loans. They called on federal authorities to change that policy immediately.
Others complained that the state hasn't set up a process to cover flood claims rejected by FEMA due to a little-known "earth movement" exclusion, which applies to destabilization caused by nearby flooding. In September, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo promised that the state would fully compensate property owners rejected by FEMA.
"We're not asking for any handouts or anything more than we deserve," said Tina Silver, whose Island Park home was destroyed in the Oct. 29 storm.
Silver fears she'll be without a place to live when her FEMA rental assistance runs out in May.
FEMA officials Saturday said they've partnered with local and state agencies and nonprofits to deliver Sandy aid.
"FEMA is not the only piece of the puzzle here," said FEMA spokesman Jim Homstad.