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Aid group:$3M in Sandy damage not covered

Stanley Kazel of Dawn House & Building Movers

Stanley Kazel of Dawn House & Building Movers works with employees of True North Construction to raise a home in Lindenhurst. (Jan. 23, 2013) Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Homes damaged and contents lost to superstorm Sandy that are not covered by insurance totaled just over $3 million for nearly 400 Long Island households, according to a report by a disaster relief agency.

But officials caution that number represents "just a fraction" of people still in need.

World Renew, the international disaster relief agency, just completed a two-week visit to Long Island to assess unmet needs of Sandy victims at the invitation of the Long Island Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster's Long Term Recovery Group, a coalition of 100 governmental, volunteer and nonprofit groups.

The local groups' disaster case managers will follow up with the people interviewed by World Renew to connect them with assistance. A priority is to make sure people apply for new federal aid available for homeowners and businesses.

At walk-in sites in Freeport, Mastic Beach and Babylon, World Renew's 20 volunteers conducted 395 interviews, finding many people still needed help eradicating mold from their houses or have their flooded homes gutted. A handful of emergency cases included victims suffering emotional trauma and people who did not have access to basic necessities, such as food, said Gwen O'Shea, president and chief executive of the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island, a coalition member.

Kathleen Holleran, disaster case manager with Catholic Charities, one of the nonprofits that had case managers on-site during World Renew interviews, recalled a woman who continued to live in her home that did not have heat or electricity six months after the storm.

She encouraged Sandy victims to call the agency at 631-608-8882, or 631-608-8883, for help.

O'Shea said World Renew found that "those 395 applications represent a total of $26 million in recovery needs" for home repairs and content losses, $22.7 million of which was covered by insurance. The unmet need is about $3.1 million.

But O'Shea expressed caution about the estimated $22.7 million in insurance coverage. "I put a big asterisk next to that," she said, citing reports of delays in insurance payouts and lower than expected payments.

O'Shea said she anticipates many more Long Islanders need post-Sandy help but have not made it to the walk-in centers.

Mark W. Martin, World Renew team leader of Long Island volunteers and director of disaster services for the United Way of Johnson County in Coralville, Iowa, agreed. "We feel like it's a fraction of the number of people that need assistance."

Estimated unmet needs for repair and reconstruction assistance statewide, excluding New York City, totaled $3.5 billion, according to New York State's Sandy action plan.

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