Township aims to help residents with FEMA, insurance claims

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UPPER TOWNSHIP – The township met with FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Administration) officials last week to start assessing damage to beaches and other public infrastructure as officials seek to recoup some of the cost incurred by Hurricane Sandy.

Committee members also said the township is working with Strathmere residents as they go through the complicated process of insurance claims and seek personal assistance from FEMA.

Around 150 homes in Strathmere suffered flood damage during the hurricane. The back bay rose so high during the storm that some homes saw three to five feet of water, according to Mayor Richard Palombo.

Some residents are finding the insurance claim process difficult, said Palombo. He said an intergovernmental officer has been assigned to the area to help residents navigate the claims process.

Palombo asked township engineer Paul Dietrich to work with the intergovernmental officer and residents to expedite claims.

“There are people struggling to qualify for FEMA assistance,” he said. “We need to help them in whatever way we can. It might take some legislative help if it goes to denial.”

Strathmere resident Ted Kingston is one example. He said his insurance claim has been denied, despite extensive flood damage in the first floor of his home.

His insurance company claims his home is listed as being built one day after the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) took effect in Upper Township in 1976.

The FIRM establishes flood zones and other hazard areas in the township. It is used in the sale of flood insurance. Homes built after the FIRM went into effect have to abide by its rules, such as home elevation, or they are not eligible for flood insurance coverage.

Kingston said his home was built before the standards went into effect in 1976. There are dates in some of his floor boards going back to 1968, he said.

“The dates in the floor go back to before the flood standards were in place in 1976,” he said.

Dietrich said Kingston should be eligible for FEMA personal assistance. The agency is distributing grants to homeowners whose primary residence was damaged in Sandy, he said.

The township is seeking public assistance from FEMA for costs it incurred during and after the storm. Public works employees removed 300 tons of debris from Strathmere after the storm, and township employees put in 500 man hours during and after the storm, he said.

Part of that cost will be eligible for FEMA reimbursement, said Dietrich.

An assessment of the beaches in Strathmere and Whale Beach will also be completed, which will determine FEMA assistance in a beach replenishment project sometime in the future, he said.

“We need to have the documentation to support our claims,” said Dietrich. “We are putting that together right now.”

Dietrich added that public works will continue brush and loose leaf pickup through November and December because of the storm. Palombo asked that public works inform the public where the pickups will occur so residents can bring debris to the curb.

“Maybe it will be more efficient, the crews won’t have to double back,” he said.

Palombo and other committee members had nothing but praise for township employees’ efforts during the storm.

“I have never worked with more dedicated people in my life,” said Palombo.

He said Office of Emergency Management (OEM), public works, and firefighters and rescue personnel worked very hard and coordinated well during the storm. At township committee’s reorganization meeting in January, those employees will be recognized, he said.

“We want to do something special for them,” said Palombo.

Committeeman Jay Newman, who oversees public safety, also credited volunteer CERT (Community Emergency Response Teams) members for a job well done. They helped serve meals at the middle school evacuation center and walked dogs, he said.

“The communication and cooperation we had was superb,” said Newman. “Ironically, Hurricane Irene last year helped us prepare even though it ended up being a false alarm. Everything we put in place for Irene worked.”

Residents with unmet needs related to Hurricane Sandy can call NJ 2-1-1 for information regarding available resources from public and private agencies. NJ 2-1-1 has published a 51-page Hurricane Sandy Relief and Recovery Assistance Guide which can be downloaded at:

 NJ 2-1-1 is a free and confidential information and referral service available 24/7 by simply calling 211 on the telephone.


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