Superstorm Sandy Recovery
More than six years after Superstorm Sandy, thousands of victims across Long Island are still struggling to rebuild their homes and businesses and return to life as they knew it before the storm.
As a member of Congress, one of Kathleen’s top priorities has been to ensure that residents, business owners and local governments in our district get the full funding and support they need to rebuild and recover from the storm. Kathleen is working closely with officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to ensure that insurance claims are reviewed thoroughly and efficiently while advocating for reforms to correct unfair insurance practices that have only compounded the hardships suffered by Sandy victims.
In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, a difficult recovery process was made even worse for many Sandy survivors when their flood insurance claims were underpaid or flat-out rejected by FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). This faulty claims process has left thousands of Long Islanders feeling cheated and abandoned by a program that they paid into and trusted to be there when they needed it most.
In response to the widespread allegations of improper denials or underpayments, Kathleen called on FEMA to conduct a full review of all flood insurance claims made by Sandy victims. The following week, FEMA announced that it would reopen the claims review process, allowing any Sandy survivor who may have been underpaid to resubmit their claim and finally receive the full funding they deserve.
Over the past six years, victims of Superstorm Sandy have come to rely on FEMA disaster relief funding to rebuild their lives. However, many victims who received these funds later learned that they were overpaid through no fault of their own, and FEMA demanded that these funds be repaid. FEMA sent recoupment notices to nearly 1,000 local homeowners, seeking to recoup an average of about $6,500. In our district, FEMA is seeking to recoup more than $1.5 million from residents in Long Beach, more than $600,000 from residents in Freeport, and more than $555,000 from residents in Oceanside.
Victims of Superstorm Sandy have suffered a great deal and have worked tirelessly to rebuild their lives, despite having to wait months or even years to receive the relief funds they needed. The last thing they deserve is to be thrown further into debt.
Less than a month after being sworn into Congress, Kathleen joined several members of the New York and New Jersey Congressional delegations as an original cosponsor of legislation that would authorize FEMA to waive such debts in instances where homeowners were overpaid through no fault of their own. On October 5, 2018, President Trump signed into law the FAA Reauthorization Act, which included text from the Disaster Assistance Fairness and Accountability Act, a bill Kathleen co-led with Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-New Jersey) that establishes a three-year statute of limitations for FEMA to claw-back household and individual assistance.
RECOVERY GRANTS & ADVOCACY
Kathleen’s office has been aggressive in helping local municipalities and organizations throughout the district win various grants for a variety of recovery projects, while also shining a spotlight on a number of persisting Sandy-related issues.
In February 2015, Kathleen announced that the City of Long Beach was awarded nearly $3 million in Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Sandy Emergency relief funds to for the purchase of eight buses and vehicles after much of the city’s transportation infrastructure was destroyed by the storm. A month later, Kathleen announced that the Lawrence Union Free School District would be awarded $2.6 million in federal relief funding for repairs to Lawrence High School in Cedarhurst, which was forced to close after sustaining heavy damage during Sandy.
In July 2015, Kathleen, publicly called on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to approve South Nassau Communities Hospital’s request to open and operate a 24-hour Emergency Services Department in Long Beach after weeks of delay. Long Beach had been without an Emergency Department since the Long Beach Medical Center was forced to close after Sandy. As a result of Kathleen’s advocacy and collaboration with partners at the federal, state and local levels, the facility received federal approval and opened its doors on August 10th, 2015.
In April 2019, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed construction on the Long Beach Coastal Storm Risk Reduction Project. This project was fully funded by the federal government at $130 million, and it included the rehabilitation of 18 groins, construction of 4 new groins, and placement of 3.2 million cubic yards of new sand to widen the beach and strengthen dunes. Kathleen continues to work closely with officials from the Army Corps to ensure that the project’s functional elements are inspected annually and maintained to last for many years to come.
Victims of Superstorm Sandy have faced numerous and unexpected roadblocks throughout their recovery process. Unable to live in their homes but lacking the funds to rebuild them, hundreds of families were left in limbo, and many felt abandoned or cheated by the one government agency that was designed to help them. In response, Kathleen has called for an independent examination of the National Flood Insurance Program and FEMA's oversight processes. It’s critical that we understand what went wrong during the Sandy claims process to ensure victims of future storms get the help they need to move with their lives.
In November 2015, Kathleen and Congressman Dan Donovan (R-Staten Island) introduced the Flood Insurance Transparency and Accountability Act of 2015, bipartisan legislation that increases transparency and accountability in the NFIP and helps ensure that victims are protected against fraud and have the information, guidance and support they need to get the money they deserve.
In October 2018, Kathleen and Congressman Peter King (R-Long Island) introduced the Transparent Disaster Relief Act, bipartisan legislation that would better inform disaster survivors about which forms of federal assistance could be considered duplicative and result in a recoupment or, claw-back. The bill also requires the federal government to automatically provide disaster survivors with clear information on how they determine recoupment amounts.
For those of us who lived through Superstorm Sandy, there is no question that climate change is real, and there is no doubt that if we fail to significantly reduce carbon pollution, sea levels will keep rising and we will experience more frequent and more intense extreme weather events in the future. Kathleen is committed to taking aggressive action to reverse the effects of climate change, and she knows it’s not only necessary to protect our communities on Long Island – it’s also a tremendous economic opportunity. Investing in clean energy sources like wind and solar power will create good green jobs on Long Island and position ourselves as a national leader in the transition away from fossil fuels.