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FEMA again extends filing deadline for Sandy claims

Seabreeze Cafe, in Babylon Village, was flooded after

Seabreeze Cafe, in Babylon Village, was flooded after superstorm Sandy swept through Long Island. (Oct. 30, 2012) Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

Homeowners battling FEMA over the cost of superstorm Sandy repairs will have an extra six months to file their paperwork.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency already had extended its usual 60-day deadline to the storm's first anniversary on Oct. 29.

But many people who are contesting their flood insurance settlements are struggling to file on time, New York Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand said in a joint release.

The Democrats, along with a bipartisan group of New York and New Jersey representatives, wrote FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate last week to request another extension.

"Sandy-impacted homeowners who suffered damages from the storm should not be denied claims due to the timing of their paperwork," Gillibrand said.

Said Schumer: "Sandy was a storm unlike any we've ever seen, and the rebuilding process is incredibly complex. This extension takes that complexity into account."

FEMA offers flood protection through the National Flood Insurance Program and enlists companies such as Allstate and Travelers to handle policies.

By the new deadline, April 28, 2014, property owners must give insurers a "proof of loss" document that states the cost of the repairs and provides evidence supporting their claims.

Chip Merlin, a lawyer who specializes in insurance claims, noted the federal rules were tougher than those of some states, and likened them to tax returns.

"Honestly, the detailed estimates that are being requested by the National Flood Insurance executors are very difficult to get in the real world. Contractors doing the work don't do detailed, line by line, room by room" estimates -- let alone for free, he said.

Benjamin Rajotte, who runs the Touro Law Center clinic in Central Islip, said the forms are "deceptively simple-looking," noting, for example, that a home's cash value can be calculated differently. If policyholders disagree with the amount, they must assert what they think is the proper figure.

Federal officials estimate they have closed 99 percent of the nearly 57,000 Sandy-related flood claims filed in New York State. Yet, consumer advocates say that doesn't account for the hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of Long Islanders still appealing settlements.

With Joe Ryan


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