Sandy Victims Still Wait for Flood Insurance Money

Homeowners question what's taking so long as their homes remain in disrepair

By Greg Cergol
|  Tuesday, Feb 5, 2013  |  Updated 9:03 AM EDT
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Three months after Sandy, thousands of Long Island families still can't start rebuilding their homes because the flood insurance they paid for still hasn't reimbursed them for their losses. Greg Cergol reports.

NBC 4 New York

Three months after Sandy, thousands of Long Island families still can't start rebuilding their homes because the flood insurance they paid for still hasn't reimbursed them for their losses. Greg Cergol reports.

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More than three months after Sandy, one Long Island family is still living in a trailer in the front yard of its storm-damaged home, waiting for the federal flood insurance money needed to rebuild.

The saga of the Sofia family of Massapequa illustrates the plight of thousands of homeowners across the tri-state area.

"I don't have the funds to get all this done," said Steve Sofia, as he stood in the middle of a kitchen gutted by the superstorm.

Sofia estimated damage to his waterfront home was about $200,000. So far, the family has been reimbursed only about $20,000 by the federally funded National Flood Insurance program.

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As they wait for the rest of the money, Sofia, his wife and three kids spend their days and nights in that 37-foot trailer, expecting not a handout but the insurance reimbursement they believe is due to them under a policy costing about $4,000 a year.

"This should be handled better," Sofia said. "It's just unacceptable to have us living like this when we paid for insurance."

Homeowners across New York, driven from their homes by Sandy, have echoed that same frustration and anger for months, wondering why the government has delayed reimbursements on flood policies.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has settled 54 percent of the roughly 56,000 flood claims in New York, according to FEMA spokeswoman Hannah Vick. Many of the remaining homeowners have received partial payments.

"We understand these are tough times," Vick said. "FEMA won't be satisfied until policyholders have received payment for all their covered losses."

FEMA failed to offer an explanation on why flood reimbursements are being delayed but homeowners have been told the large number of claims has slowed the process to a crawl.

"It's a horrible situation," said Jerry Laurino of Massapequa, a Korean War veteran who has spent $100,000 of his own money to make his home livable. So far, flood insurance has reimbursed only about a third of that, with no word on when or if the rest will be coming.

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"The government has got to straighten itself out," said Laurino.

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