FEMA: LI homeowners so far have gotten $352M in Sandy aid

Large piles of debris still sit on the

Large piles of debris still sit on the front lawns of some of the homes in Ocean Beach before a major FEMA/Army Corps of Engineers debris clean-up of Fire Island. (Jan. 18, 2013) (Credit: Ed Betz)

Long Island homeowners so far have received less than half the federal aid needed to cover their nearly $800 million in uninsured losses from superstorm Sandy.

About 47,500 households in Nassau and Suffolk have received grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, providing $352 million to offset the $796 million in damages not covered by flood insurance.

To make up the difference, 5,960 Island households have secured Small Business Administration low-interest loans totaling $457.3 million.


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The latest numbers provide the best picture yet of Sandy's devastating impact in Nassau and Suffolk.

Last month, FEMA said 95,534 structures Islandwide were damaged or destroyed. But the agency has switched from counting structures to counting damaged households. So far 53,555 households suffered damage and have applied for grants.

"That's still a significant amount of houses, and there are still a significant number of households that didn't have insurance," said Timothy Crowley, FEMA's regional director of mitigation. "This is by far the biggest disaster we've had."

Chad Berginnis, executive director of the Association of State Floodplain Managers, said of the $796 million figure: "I think it's consistent with the amount of damage that we're seeing in the area and the total number of households that were impacted."

FEMA grants are for primary residences not covered by insurance or for insured owners seeking financial help beyond or outside their coverage limits. It can cover expenses such as rent while awaiting repairs, storm damage to vehicles and medical costs.

The total verified loss from households seeking individual grants from FEMA now stands at $618,196,758 in Nassau, and $177,437,419 in Suffolk, for a total of $795,634,177.

Crowley said the figures might increase slightly as FEMA does more field inspections and more people apply for grants by the Feb. 27 deadline.

The maximum amount for the grants, which do not have to be repaid, is $31,900. The average amount applied for is just under $12,000.

Pearl Kamer, Long Island Association chief economist, said $796 million in grant requests "is a lot of money, but it's not enough money to rebuild what has to be rebuilt."

She said that because of the small amount most people will get, "unless they have flood insurance or personal resources, it's going to be difficult to rebuild." She said that might spur property owners near the water to accept an offer from the state to sell out rather than rebuild, even if they prefer to remain.

"And if we buy them out, where do they go?" she asked. "We have limited rental housing on Long Island."

Meanwhile, the latest figures from the state show 321,000 auto and homeowner insurance claims have been filed, with 76 percent closed. But how much private insurers have paid out is unknown.

Also unknown is how much will ultimately be paid out in federal flood insurance claims.

The agency does know at this point that about 56,000 flood claims have been filed in the state. But there is no breakdown for Long Island, the region hardest hit and where 43,100 homes exposed to stormwater were covered by flood insurance.

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