Like many residents, the Gialanzes are hoping to build a modular, FEMA-compliant new home — which is expected to cost at least $200,000. “Our home was deemed uninhabitable by the city and our engineer that we hired, not just because of structural damage but because of the sewage damage also,” Debbie said, adding that she received only $70,000 from Fidelity. “If you go to my house, you can see where the roof is buckling. But they’re not going to give us money for structural damage because of that loophole …”
It is one of the many issues that the Gialanzes have been grappling with since the storm. Their son, who is autistic, was supposed to graduate from Long Beach High School in the spring. He is now attending MacArthur General High School in Levittown, but has had difficultly adjusting.
Though the Gialanzes were approved for a Small Business Administration loan, Debbie said they want to avoid taking on more debt. In the meantime, she hopes the rally will prompt lawmakers to put pressure on FEMA to change its policy.
“It’s been really hard on all of us,” she said. “The thing is, our government did this to us — they’re the ones who keep changing the rules and regulations in flood insurance, and they’re the ones who can make this go away. People should turn out to the rally even if they’re back in their homes, because the ones who are still displaced are not only trying to get back in, but trying to prevent this from happening again.”
Laura Schofer contributed to this story.