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FEMA opening flood insurance office to help policyholders navigate claims process

Homes along Bayview Avenue West in Lindenhurst, seen

Homes along Bayview Avenue West in Lindenhurst, seen on Nov. 1, 2012, were destroyed by superstorm Sandy. Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will open an independent office next week dedicated to helping policyholders navigate the National Flood Insurance Program, which homeowners have long derided as bureaucratic labyrinth.

The agency, which oversees the government-run insurance program, appointed a veteran flood insurance official, David Stearrett, to lead the office, which opens Dec. 22. He will report directly to top FEMA officials.

"As someone who has worked tirelessly on behalf of policyholders for many years, I know Mr. Stearrett will fight each day to ensure that policyholders have the information they need to navigate the flood insurance process and ensure any concerns are addressed," said David Miller, associate administrator for the Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration, the FEMA arm that oversees the flood insurance program.

FEMA was required to establish an office to advocate for flood insurance policyholders under a law signed in 2012 by President Barack Obama to reform the program.

Its opening comes as more than 1,000 homeowners in New York are locked in monthslong legal battles over flood insurance settlements, saying they were underpaid for claims filed after superstorm Sandy, which made landfall on Oct. 29, 2012.

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