Another FEMA forum grows heated

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Even SBA loans that homeowners were approved for, but did not take, make qualifying for block grant funds more difficult, Raab explained. Many people who were affected by Sandy chose not to take on SBA loans because they did not want to incur any more debt.

On Tuesday, Sen. Charles Schumer urged Shaun Donovan, secretary of Housing and Urban Development, the federal department that controls the CDBG money, to change the application so that refused loans are not deducted from applicants’ potential grant total.

“Many victims of Sandy had no choice but to reject these SBA loans because they could not take on any more debt,” said Schumer. “This policy will punish these homeowners, and HUD should do everything in its power to make sure these individuals are eligible for additional federal assistance.”

Residents expressed outrage when Raab said that applications for block grant funds would not be processed until applicants have settled with their insurance companies, because the amount of insurance money they receive is a deciding factor in grant eligibility. Residents said that as they fight for more money, it could be some time before they reach settlements.

“So if people don’t have flood insurance, are they going to be put ahead of us?” asked one resident.

The answer was yes. Raab said that whoever completes the application first will be served first. This drew the ire of audience members who said they shouldn’t be punished for “doing the right thing” and having flood insurance. They feared that by the time they settled with their insurance companies, the grant money would be all gone.

“The pot is so big, it is not a question of running out,” said Raab.

Rebuilding still a challenge

Others complained of unfair reimbursements from their insurance companies for labor and materials as they attempt to rebuild.

“They give us prices that come from Ethiopia or Mississippi,” said resident Frank Conrad, who said that he was given a $66,000 insurance reimbursement to rebuild his three-bedroom house. “You can’t even build an outhouse on Long Island with that money.”
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