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Family says insurance rules a barrier to home renovation

Erica Scoma, the mother of Aliah Scoma, 10, who was born with congenital heart disease and chromosomal abnormality, spoke on Thursday outside her house about the call on state lawmakers to ease costly insurance requirements for some nonprofits that renovate homes for families with handicapped children and adults. (Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas)

A Huntington Station family is calling on state lawmakers to ease insurance requirements for some nonprofits making home renovations that could be life-changing for handicapped children and adults.

Huntington Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci, Babylon Town Supervisor Richard Schaffer, representatives of Islandia-based nonprofit Long Island Home Builders Care Inc. and other elected officials gathered in Anthony and Erica Scoma’s driveway Thursday to urge legislators to exempt New York State 501c3 charities from purchasing additional insurance if they do not have paid staff and do not charge for material or labor.

The group said the exemptions would only apply to nonprofits where all services and materials are donated to the recipient, and the contractors doing the work are fully insured.

“I want to pray for the sensitivity for the people in power that can make a change in our lives, in the lives of families that have children with special needs,” an emotional Erica Scoma said. “To the people in power give our children a gift because it’s challenging enough for them every second of every day.”

Her daughter, Aliah, 10, was born with congenital heart disease, chromosomal abnormality and micro deletion of chromosome 15, which leads to developmental delays such as speech and vision impairment and cerebral palsy.

The couple’s home does not have ramps, making it hard on Aliah, who uses a wheelchair. She’s also unable to use many therapeutic and exercise devices because there is no space.

Members of Long Island Home Builders Care, the charitable arm of the Long Island Builders Institute, is seeking to donate labor and materials to make the home’s bathroom handicap accessible, expand Aliah’s bedroom, build a physical therapy room and enlarge the kitchen, among other things.

The nonprofit realized in the spring that they could not move forward with the project, estimated to cost about $100,000, because the organization could not afford the state-mandated insurance coverage.

“Through the years we’ve done things not realizing that we needed to have this insurance policy,” said Lois Fricke, operations director of Long Island Home Builders Care. “But as our board expanded and more people joined the board and we started to do more things, counsel advised us that we can’t do this unless we get an insurance policy.”

New York is the only state that has the additional insurance requirement, according to the organization.

“This is a bipartisan call to action to help these charities make a significant difference in the lives of these families who face so many obstacles,” Lupinacci said, a Republican.  

Schaffer, a Democrat, said eliminating the requirement is a “no-brainer.”

“If you have a group of people who through the kindness of their generosity and heart want to help people, you have people who need to be helped and who deserve to be helped and something, bureaucracy, is holding them up,” he said. “What do you do with bureauracy that’s holding up that equation? You smash it.”

Fricke said legislation has been drafted, and the group and its supporters are working to find a senator to back it.

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