Pallone Leads Bipartisan Letter Opposing FEMA Deadlines for Sandy Victims
Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Frank Pallone Jr. (NJ-06) led a bipartisan letter to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator William B. Long, objecting to FEMA’s plan to remove Sandy victims from the Sandy Claims Review process if they have not scheduled oral interviews for their Neutral Reviews by August 1, 2017. The lawmakers also objected to FEMA announcing that it will consider the claims of hundreds of Superstorm Sandy victims in New Jersey and New York “withdrawn” if the agency does not receive responses from these victims by July 31, 2017.
“Completing the claims process must be a priority for FEMA." The lawmakers wrote. "but completing the review should not be done by simply shutting the files of victims who are awaiting a fair resolution, especially given FEMA’s role in delaying payouts.”
Congressman Pallone has been a leader in demanding transparency and reforms for those who have suffered from inefficiencies and fraud in the National Flood Insurance Program. Recently the Congressman introduced comprehensive flood insurance reform legislation in the House of Representatives. Last May, Pallone led a bipartisan letter from members of the New Jersey Congressional delegation to former Administrator Fugate of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) requesting that it immediately resolve unfinished claims.
“We have been demanding from FEMA for years that they recognize the urgency of the situation faced by the victims of Sandy, and the need to expeditiously complete the claims review process and get the funds owed to these homeowners. Unfortunately, the first sign of urgency we see from FEMA is now, when they have decided to blindside these victims and try, yet again, to prevent fair resolution to these claims. It is simply unacceptable,” said Congressman Pallone.
House members signing onto the letter include Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ-11), Peter King (NY-2), Frank A. LoBiondo (NJ-02), Tom MacArthur (NJ-03), Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12), Gregory Meeks (NY-05), Jerold Nadler (NY-10), Bill Pascrell (NJ-09), Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10), Kathleen M. Rice (NY-04), Albio Sires (NJ-08), Thomas R. Suozzi (NY-03) andNydia M. Velazquez (NY-07).
The text of the letter can be found below.
Dear Administrator Long:
We write in response to recent decisions by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) regarding pending Sandy Claims Review process. We strongly object to FEMA’s decision to remove claimants from the process, depriving them of the opportunity to receive compensation, if they have not scheduled oral interviews for their Neutral Reviews by August 1, 2017. We also oppose the agency’s decision to consider hundreds of so-called “inactive” claims in New Jersey and New York “withdrawn” if the agency does not receive responses from these victims by July 31, 2017. Put simply, these are unacceptable decisions by FEMA and we strongly urge you to reverse these decisions.
Superstorm Sandy struck the East Coast of the United States in 2012, causing enormous economic damage and loss of life. New Jersey and New York were hit particularly hard. Many Sandy victims had flood insurance, which should have helped support a quick recovery from the damage. However, a large number of policyholders were underpaid, some severely, and allegations of fraud and incompetence have been leveled at FEMA’s handling of payouts. In response to public outcry at how claims were being handled, FEMA set up the Sandy Claims Review process in late 2015. This process has dragged on at a snail’s pace, and FEMA’s self-imposed deadlines for resolving claims have repeatedly been missed, harming and disheartening many victims who simply want to move on with their lives.
Completing the claims process must be a priority for FEMA, but completing the review should not be done by simply shutting the files of victims who are awaiting a fair resolution, especially given FEMA’s role in delaying payouts. We have no assurance that FEMA successfully contacted any of these pending claimants, or that the claimants are even aware of the deadlines. Pulling the rug out from our constituents who have been in limbo for more than four years is not just unfair, it is immoral.
FEMA should instead exhaust every reasonable effort to engage with these Sandy victims and ensure they receive the payouts they are owed. Sandy victims deserve much better than what FEMA has given them. FEMA should not kick any victims out of program, and we call upon you to postpone the July 31, 2017 deadline indefinitely. We look forward to your response to this urgent matter, and we stand willing to work with you to ensure that every Sandy victim receives the payout he or she deserves.