Long Beach and Nassau County officials joined a rally of more than 100 frustrated South Shore homeowners impacted by Hurricane Sandy who protested a Federal Emergency Management provision outside the Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building in Mineola Aug. 29.
County Legislator Denise Ford (R-Long Beach), Legislator Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick), County Executive Ed Mangano, Long Beach City Council members Fran Adelson and Eileen Goggin joined with residents, many of whom had their insurance claims denied, are still displaced and held signs that read “Still Homeless.”
As Patch reported last month, the homeowners are protesting a provision of the FEMA-managed National Flood Insurance Program which states that property loss caused by earth movement, even if it is the direct result of flooding, is not covered.
Many protesters said they believe FEMA is improperly using the earth-movement exclusion so as avoid paying homeowners’ claims, but FEMA maintains that more than nearly 100 percent of the more than 143,000 Sandy-related flood insurance claims have been closed, and policyholders have been paid more than $7.8 billion, according to the the Long Beach Herald.
At the rally, which was organized by a Freeport resident and attorney, Mangano said:
“… [T]o deny them relief because floodwaters caused their earth movement is ridiculous. Storm water was clearly the destructive force here. This exclusion is causing needless pain and suffering.”Among the protesters were Long Beach residents Ron and Debbie Gialanze of Long Beach, who have hired an attorney to challenge FEMA on the earth-movement provision after flooding from Reynolds Channel damaged the foundation of their East Pine Street home during the storm. Their insurance company, Fidelity, refused to pay the full value of their $250,000 flood policy based on the earth movement provision. The Gialanzes have been displaced since the storm. Debbie said:
“People don’t realize that they’re being affected. Maybe they weren’t affected this time around, but when the next flood comes, they will be affected.”
Both U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand have called on FEMA to revisit the earth-movement provision and reverse the denied claims of homeowners who are relying on their flood insurance policies to repair and rebuild their homes. FEMA has yet to respond to a letter to this effect that Schumer sent to the agency, the Herald reports.
FEMA spokesman Dan Watson said in a statement last month that the agency administers the National Flood Insurance Program at the discretion of Congress and by law the Standard Flood Insurance Policy only covers direct physical loss to buildings by flooding:
"For instance, damage caused by the surge or flow of floodwater can scour around foundations or undermine a slab, directly damaging the foundation. By law, the SFIP does not cover earth movement, including destabilization caused by nearby flooding."
Watson noted that when an insurer denies a claim or any part of a claim, the policyholder may also appeal that denial directly to FEMA.