NEW YORK (AP) — Victims of Superstorm Sandy still fighting for a bigger insurance payment from the companies that administer the federal flood insurance program are getting a six-month extension to file critical paperwork.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced the decision Tuesday, even after the government shutdown amid budget wars in Congress. FEMA had given homeowners until the storm's anniversary to submit a critical legal document called a proof-of-loss form, which acts as an inventory of things they believe should be covered in any insurance settlement. They will now have until April 28.
Many were unaware of the deadline, and many more were unprepared to finish documenting their insurance claims by the storm's anniversary and stood to lose out on their right to contest lowballed insurance payments, said Benjamin Rajotte, director of the Disaster Relief Clinic at the Touro Law Center on Long Island. The law center had set up a series of automated phone messages by a storm victims legal aid clinic to help get the word out. He said the extension will bring needed bureaucratic relief to thousands of homeowners in New York and New Jersey who are still fighting for a bigger flood insurance payment.
"This gives them an opportunity to continue documenting their flood losses," he said.
Some people have already signed one loss form filled out by an insurance adjuster. If they are still fighting for a higher insurance payment, though, based on higher-than expected construction costs, they could be barred from collecting if they don't fill out another form detailing the broader losses.
Twenty-two members of Congress from New York and New Jersey signed a letter that U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand wrote to FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate on Friday asking for the extension.
The news comes three days after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state would share part of the billions of dollars in federal aid from the storm to compensate victims who had claims denied because of a confusing rule barring payments for damage caused by earth movement during a flood.