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No more delays: FEMA must adopt reforms

People clean up debris from a destroyed home

People clean up debris from a destroyed home on Shore Road in Lindenhurst on Nov. 4, 2012 in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Three tropical systems are active in the Atlantic Ocean this week, a reminder that we’re entering peak hurricane season. Long Island is not in the path of any of them right now but when the next big storm does hit, will the federal government’s response have improved since the last disaster?

Indeed, we’re still talking about the need for Federal Emergency Management Agency reforms in the wake of widespreadfraud after superstorm Sandy. State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has indicted Uniondale-based GEB HiRise Engineering on charges the company fraudulently altered engineering reports, leading to lower payments or denials of claims. Schneiderman sent his findings to the Department of Justice to address possible crimes in Sandy cases that stretch beyond New York. That must result in action on the national stage. In a separate report analyzing the National Flood Insurance Program, Schneiderman made some relatively simple recommendations. They include clarifying the scope of what’s covered under flood insurance, “plain English” explanations for homeowners, requiring specific training and certification for structural engineers who work on claims, and automatically providing homeowners with all claims documentation during the process and upon a denial.

These are important, straightforward reforms. But the responses from FEMA officials, even after Schneiderman’s report, ranged from they’re “working on” it, and it’s “in process,” to they “acknowledge the importance of the issues.” For solutions that don’t require Congress or comment periods, that’s not good enough.

It’s been nearly four years since Sandy hit Long Island. We’ve waited long enough. — The editorial board