Thursday, September 18, 2014

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NY1 For You: Flood Insurance Requirement Washes Out Hope For FEMA Relief

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A little-known requirement is preventing some of the hardest-hit homeowners from receiving assistance for Hurricane Sandy recovery from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. NY1's Susan Jhun filed the following NY1 For You report.

The beautiful waterfront view at Sara Barbera's home in the Howard Beach section of Queens comes at a great cost.

"Everything was destroyed," says Barbera.

The Howard Beach homeowner suffered severe losses last year after Hurricane Irene flooded her basement, and then had Hurricane Sandy flood her entire first floor.

Now, as Barbera tries to rebuild again, she says the Federal Emergency Management Agency is refusing to give her assistance a second time.

Barbera says when she cashed FEMA's check from Irene, she was not aware she was required to get flood insurance. In any case, she couldn't afford it.

"I am a widow, I'm a cancer survivor, I'm a disabled woman and I also have my mom living with me," Barbera says. "So living on a fixed income, I just cannot afford the flood insurance."

NY1 contacted FEMA and a spokesman confirmed that by law, individuals who did not acquire flood insurance on previously damaged property are not eligible for federal assistance for repair, replacement or restoration.

Barbera says that affects a lot of homeowners hit hard by Hurricane Irene and Sandy.

"I know for a fact it's not only I, but a lot of my neighbors that were paid last year are under the same circumstances," she says.

For now, Barbera has no heat or hot water and has yet to pay for the electricity she had restored. As the homeowner surveys three decades' worth of personal property damage, she hopes that FEMA will reconsider as she vows to keep appealing her case.

Although FEMA officials would not speak to NY1 specifically about Barbera's case, a spokesman says the agency would look into it again.

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