Long Island homeowners battered first by superstorm Sandy, and then by the bureaucracy set up to compensate them for their damages, finally have caught a break.
The federal government has abandoned its plan to claw back recovery grants up to $20,000 from anyone receiving additional flood insurance settlements. This is welcome news, because the plan made little sense from the start. The added payments are going to homeowners who appealed original payouts as being too small, in some cases as a result of intentional fraud, such as reports doctored by engineering firms hired by insurers. And the administrative cost of clawing back money from awards averaging $16,000 simply isn't worth the effort. Officials from the state's New York Rising program say it would have cost them up to $1 million to recover a far smaller amount.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo requested the federal waiver in August, and Sen. Chuck Schumer led the lobbying effort in Washington to make it happen. Schumer also smartly negotiated a one-month extension of the deadline for victims to reopen flood insurance claims, giving understandably wary homeowners extra time to file. Only 9 percent of eligible homeowners have requested to have their claims reopened, but 65 percent of them were found to have been underpaid.
The next step for our elected representatives should be to make sure this system works from the start, so the next big storm doesn't become a recurring nightmare.