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Long Island Sandy Victims Blast FEMA Rationale On ‘Earth Movement’ Flooding

Many Exasperated Residents About To Mark 2nd Straight Christmas Homeless
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New York Rising Protest

Long Island residents protest over the New York Rising program for Sandy relief. (Credit: CBS 2)

FREEPORT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – It will be another Christmas spent homeless for tens of thousands of victims of Hurricane Sandy.

Dozens of them gathered Monday to demand federal rebuilding funds flow faster, CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported.

They braved the rain, but said that’s nothing compared to the struggle after Sandy. Dozens of homeless storm victims protested outside the offices of “NY Rising” in Freeport.

“They’ve told us the money is coming; we are going to meet your unmet needs. We have not received a penny,” Island Park resident Barbara Vahey said.

An NY Rising spokesperson said help is on the way: 2,500 checks in the mail totaling $88 million. But victims say the governor’s program to disperse federal funds has only paid for repairs, not yet for rebuilding homes that are gone.

“It looks fantastic … 2,500 checks, a Christmas miracle, but where’s the money for the homeless?” Freeport resident Katie Fazekas said.

And those who have received awards said they were low-balled and unrealistic.

Attorney Michele Mittleman’s Freeport home was destroyed. She organized the protest via social media, taking on not only the state but also the federal government.

“That will get me a foundation and maybe a flood board. I can’t go home like that,” Mittleman said.

Mittleman blasted a Federal Emergency Management Agency policy that denied thousands of flood claims, ruling homes were destroyed not by flood water but by earth movement, which isn’t covered.

“I would describe it as pure fraud,” Mittleman said.

FEMA officials told CBS 2’s Gusoff that by law flood insurance only covers direct loss by flooding, not destabilization caused by earth movement from nearby flooding.  Victims say it’s a technicality.

“Our damage was caused by rising water filling our house. Our house filled with 4 feet of water and floated off foundation and then when you file a claim, they deny your claim,” Mittleman said.

An estimated 30,000 homeowners were denied flood claims due to the earth movement exclusion. Many of them are about to spend their second Christmas homeless, but still paying a mortgage.

A spokeswoman for NY Rising said the amount of money victims are receiving is based on what they are replacing, and it is intended to help them get back home.

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