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Editorial: Cheers for clearing up Sandy insurance red tape

A large tree dangerously rests on power lines

A large tree dangerously rests on power lines on a flooded section of Bayville Avenue during Hurricane Sandy in Bayville. (Oct. 29, 2012) Credit: Barry Sloan

New York State's decision to compensate Sandy victims who've had their flood insurance claims denied because of a technicality is a victory for common sense and compassionate government.

Hundreds of Long Islanders have not been paid because insurance adjusters claim the destruction of their property was caused not by flooding, but by earth movement during a flood. Federal Emergency Management Agency officials have said those claims can be paid only if surging floodwaters undermined a slab or foundation. But they must be denied if the damage is caused by "earth movement," including destabilization caused by nearby flooding. That's a stance the federal government wasn't backing down from, even with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) recently applying pressure by meeting with FEMA's director, so making these claimants whole is one of the best possible uses of the billions in federal money New York will receive to deal with the superstorm's damage.

Similar claims rejected by FEMA after tropical storms Irene and Lee will also be covered.

But now that we've addressed those hurt by the system, what about addressing the system? The way federal flood insurance policies are written should change. The purpose of the program is to create an insurance pool self-funded by property owners in flood zones to compensate victims of floods. Rates are set to rise to shore up the self-funding aspect of the insurance, as they should.

But the program should also be improved to make certain people who suffer damage from floods are, in fact, able to get their money. Insurance policies are meant to provide protection to those who need it, not deny that protection based on technicalities.


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