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Pallone Calls inability of FEMA to Resolve Sandy Claims “Unacceptable”

January 11, 2017
Press Release

Washington, DC - Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) sent a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator W. Craig Fugate to express disappointment with the continued delays for claim reviews from victims of Superstorm Sandy. Although Superstorm Sandy occurred over four years ago, 36% of Sandy claims still remain open.

"These policyholders have been waiting for years to get their claims resolved, and are eager to move on with their lives,” said Pallone. “I have heard from constituents who began the process with a FEMA contact, only to have that person leave their position, causing the victim to spend weeks or months trying to connect with their new contact. FEMA should be focused on resolving claims, not blaming victims for delays.”

In May, Pallone led a bipartisan letter from members of the New Jersey Congressional delegation to Administrator Fugate of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) requesting that it take swift action on behalf of those who have suffered from documented, widespread fraud perpetrated by private insurance companies in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. The lawmakers asked for an explanation of why it is taking FEMA so long to process the insurance claims of these victims and to detail the steps FEMA is taking to swiftly rectify the situation.

After that letter was sent, Pallone and Congressman Bill Pascrell (NJ-09) met with Roy Wright, Deputy Associate Administrator for Insurance and Mitigation at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to demand that FEMA take swift action to process claims for victims of Hurricane Sandy. At the meeting, Wright stated that FEMA would have the unprocessed claims finished by the end of the summer.

Last year Congressman Pallone introduced the Flood Insurance Reimbursement Standards Transparency (FIRST) Cap Profits Act and he will introduce in the new Congress. The bill would require increased oversight and transparency of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and cap the profits of private companies providing flood insurance at 10%. Pallone’s bill also includes a provision to require that private flood insurance companies cover the legal fees of plaintiffs if the company is found to have committed fraud.

 

The text of the letter can be found below:

 

W. Craig Fugate

Administrator

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

500 C Street SW

Washington, DC 20472

Dear Administrator Fugate:

I write to express my disappointment with FEMA’s continued delays for Superstorm Sandy victims, specifically those who had requested third-party claim reviews. It is unacceptable that these victims have to continue to wait because of errors on the part of FEMA. As of December 16, 2016, more than four years after the homes and businesses of victims were destroyed, 36% of Sandy claims remain open. FEMA’s continued slowness in resolving these claims is not acceptable. I respectfully request that you prioritize expediting the Sandy claims review process in your final weeks at FEMA, and that you strongly encourage your successor to work to complete this process as quickly as possible.

Last month, FEMA announced more delays for Sandy Claims policyholders for those opting to request a third-party claim review. According to FEMA, the process is experiencing delays due to policyholders submitting “lengthy and/or unrelated supplemental documentation,” which must then be reviewed by the Adjuster.

The issue of too much documentation could be avoided with clear direction from FEMA as to what documentation is needed to ensure that the claims review process can move forward smoothly. These policyholders have been waiting for years to get their claims resolved, and are eager to move on with their lives. I have heard from constituents who began the process with a FEMA contact, only to have that person leave their position, causing the victim to spend weeks or months trying to get in connect with their new contact. FEMA should be focused on resolving claims, not blaming victims for delays.

When I spoke with Roy Wright, Deputy Associate Administrator for Insurance and Mitigation, in May 2016, he assured me that the agency was making substantive progress and would have fully processed all claims by the end of the summer. As of FEMA’s status report in mid-December, that target still has not been reached. This is frustratingly slow progress, especially since a claim being “processed” means it has only gone through a desk review. FEMA has to pick up the pace.   

The halting progress of the Sandy Review process has become a source of exasperation for many Sandy victims, and I remain committed to pushing for my constituents to receive their due benefits without further unnecessary delay.  While I recognize that your time at FEMA is coming to a close, victims of Superstorm Sandy cannot move on while their claims hang in limbo. I call on you to work with your successor to ensure a smooth transmission at FEMA that prioritizes the completion of the Sandy claims review process.

                                                                        Sincerely,                            

FRANK PALLONE, JR.                      

Member of Congress

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