The following letter was sent by Seaford resident Margaret Blitt to local elected officials.
To the editor:
Months ago, I began seeking assistance in trying to recover from Sandy. My family has been displaced from the storm and will be for a very long time. Our home is one of the homes where an oil spill has been the main issue.
Dealing with the insurance companies, adjusters, and mortgage companies is a full-time job. I already have a full-time job, go to school full-time and have four children. There are not enough hours in the day to navigate this process. I will be attending the event answering insurance-related question State Sen. Charles Fushillo's office has arranged for next Thursday, February 7 at the Wantagh Fire Department Station #3 House in Seaford but again, it's taking time away from something else I should be working on.
I am requesting several things that would help me and all the other families involved lives a little less complicated:
- Free childcare centers set-up in our communities on the weekends for families who need to spend hours of time working things out with insurance companies, adjusters, mortgage companies, contractors and lawyers. I am sure if your office and the other politicians in the area pool together discretionary funds some local childcare centers would work with you. The children have suffered and are being neglected while their parents spend 10-15 hours on the weekend.
- Working through this nonsense. Strict fines need to be put in place for insurance companies that are dragging their feet to settle claims. The only way we will see action is if it is going to cost them money. You don't want to settle after 30 days, $200.00 per day fine until claim is settled. It's the only way you can help us! To speak to an insurance rep on the phone takes an average of 40 minutes. In my situation you usually spend 40 minutes for the person to tell you they can not help you. Accountability, insurance companies need to be held accountable. State Farm refused to assist me even after I filed 4 complaints with the New York State Deptartment of Finance. Each complaint takes approximately 30 minutes to file. SF are the two letters that begin my policy number, they receive the annual payment but they have no responsibility? My complaints have cost me valuable time and have been meaningless. Complaints that are valid should turn into $500- $1000 fines for each insurance agent and company. I have also filed numerous complaints against homeowners and flood insurance. They have been meaningless to the companies. They must be fined! The loss of money is the only way action will be taken. I have insurance agents telling me I need to understand they are overworked. That is hog wash! I don't need to understand anything about them. They need to assist me.
- Contractors need to be monitored more closely. Gouging in out of control. Something that cost $7000 a year ago cost $24,000 this year? Community service? And try to get a written estimate.... If you can get one it costs money.
- Scheduled events for assistance....Who knows about them and who attends? The people displaced from the storm do not get the information. I have four children who have been displaced. We hear about all the wonderful things that are going on for Sandy victims after they occur. My family has never been invited to any event that may make them feel special, not forgotten and offer support. Who are attending these events, not the true victim. We have not had a home for three months and probably won't for another year. I have three high school students, and the high school did give them each $50 gift cards for the holidays, which was nice because they were able to buy gifts for people who have been helping them but that's it. Nothing else, no counseling, support group etc.. High school officials told me the kids can speak to anyone at any time but their teenagers, they aren't going to seek help for stress, it must be brought to them. Coordinate events and invite people who really need support, the families that are still homeless and will be for many months to come. Be more conscious and sensitive to people whose lives have not moved forward since October 28, 2012. Find them!
- Free Legal Advice. It's time where people are realizing they need legal advice, real true help. Newsday had an article where Touro College was offering free legal advice. Well after 3 phone calls and about 80 minutes of my valuable time I was told sorry we don't have anyone with the expertise you need. AHHHH!
- Have the Town of Hempstead extend the free permit process for Sandy Victims by six months. In November March 1 sounded like an eternity but the day will be here soon and many families can not move forward because of the insurance companies and then mortgage companies.
- Make the government responsible for cleaning the oil spills. The EPA said they would cleanup the oil spills if they were mandated to and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has the authority to order that but won't. Homeowners can not afford cleanups and to rebuild their homes and their lives. $250,000 sound like a lot of money but when you look at the costs, rebuilding is all it is going to cover. We lost everything. Is it fair now, that we may incur a $100,000 debt because the oil tank under our home flipped and leaked? Flood Insurance will not cover cleaning the soil? (I requested the FEMA order of your office and several other politicians months ago and no one ever even addressed it).
- Mandate that businesses don't charge victims for holding their phone numbers, Cablevision $10.00 per month plus tax, World Gym $25.00 per month freeze cost, these are just two examples. This is not the sense of community portrayed on the news. To me this is businesses taking advantage of victims.
Please help! Many politicians use the "Sandy" phrase for attention, to get ahead or as we saw in November, to get elected or re-elected. It's time some real help came to those still stuck on October 28.
I feel you sincerely want to help, so speak to us, the homeless, distraught, exhausted victims and listen. This email has cost me 60 minutes of my valuable time. I hope it is not in vain.
- Margaret Blitt