Menendez tells N.J. homeowners left in the lurch he’ll get answers from FEMA chief

Almost two years after Superstorm Sandy devastated their properties, some victims say they’re fed up with the National Flood Insurance Program claims process and the standstill that’s meant for rebuilding. 

Toms River resident Douglas Quinn is still renting elsewhere because he hasn’t been able to finish rebuilding his ranch-style home on Pine Crest Drive. At the height of Sandy, it was inundated by 4-foot-high floodwaters from Barnegat Bay.

Quinn, who had $250,000 of flood insurance coverage, received a settlement check for just $92,000.

“You pay a premium. They collect the premiums 100 cents on the dollar. They should pay claims 100 cents on the dollar. It should not be pennies on the dollar that they’re paying out,” Quinn said at a meeting with U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez and other disgruntled homeowners at his damaged home.

“They should not put taxpayers, premium payers, and U.S. citizens through the kind of runaround that Sandy victims have had to go through,” Quinn said.

Nutley resident Steve Picciano, who said Sandy destroyed 70 percent of his summer home in Ortley Beach, said the estimated cost of rebuilding is $480,000. His insurance company has given him a $185,000 payout.

“Two years of frustration,” he told Menendez. “I’m actually sick about it.

“It’s been a real battle. I’ve talked to people from FEMA, and I’m so disappointed that that’s a federal government program, the way they talk to people,” Picciano said. “They have no regard for us at all.”

Menendez, who met with flood victims Monday, said that FEMA’s diligence in preventing flood insurance overpayments has resulted in countless homeowners being lowballed.

“Homeowners are getting insurance checks that are far less than what they deserve,” he said. “There must be a balance between protecting against overpayments and shortchanging hardworking families.”

Menendez promised the group he would get answers from FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate at a hearing Wednesday in an effort to make sure the process is fair.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.