TOMS RIVER, NJ - U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) today visited the damaged Toms River home of a single father of two whose family remains displaced 21 months after Sandy due in part to problems with the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) claims process. (Photos below.)
"I heard from countless constituents who told me similar versions of the same story Doug Quinn told me-people who did the responsible thing, faithfully paid for flood insurance for ten, 20, or 30 years, never had a claim until Sandy devastated their house and only to find out it wasn't enough," said Sen. Menendez. "They assumed-since they had insurance-that they would be made whole and have the resources they need to rebuild. Not true!"
The Quinns' home, along the mouth of Kettle Creek near Barnegat Bay, was devastated by Sandy's record storm surge, sending three-foot waves crashing into their ranch-style house and inundating it with four-foot-deep flood water. Several assessments appraised the damage at as much as $254,000.
"I was in my home the night the floodwaters rushed in. I waded out through waist deep water at midnight to escape while electrical transformers exploded and houses burned down," described Doug Quinn. "That was the easy part. It's the year and a half since then that has been the tragedy."
Despite having $250,000 of flood insurance coverage, the Quinns received a settlement check of only $92,000 that went directly to their mortgage holder. Of that, the family received only half; barely enough, they say, to cover cleanup and remediation expenses. Mr. Quinn is appealing.
"Look around you," Sen. Menendez said, standing in the Quinns' gutted living room. "Does this look like $90,000 worth of damage to you? Commonsense tells you that's just a drop in the bucket of what it will cost the Quinn family to rebuild their home and their lives."
Sen. Menendez first called for hearings into the flood insurance claims process earlier this year after his office received numerous complaints from New Jersey Sandy victims that they had been low-balled or treated to an endless runaround from their private carrier and FEMA.
"Doug is just one of many New Jerseyans who are going through a similar nightmare," said Sen. Menendez. "The fact is the entire claims process-from the initial filing to the way the claim is processed to the appeal process-is tilted against the homeowner."
On Wednesday, Sen. Menendez will chair a Senate Banking Subcommittee hearing with a goal of getting answers from FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate and recommending improvements to ensure the process is fair and expedites recovery from Superstorm Sandy.
Sen. Menendez has maintained his commitment to improving the lives of New Jersey residents impacted by Sandy. The Homeowner's Flood Insurance Affordability Act, the Senator introduced to address skyrocketing flood insurance rates, was passed by an overwhelming, bipartisan margin in Congress and was signed into law by President Obama in April. Menendez also chaired a hearing in March in which he questioned then-Housing and Urban Development Sec. Shaun Donovan and identified concrete ways the State could accelerate New Jersey's slow recovery.
Photo 1: Homeowner Doug Quinn shows Sen. Menendez the damage to his home.
Photo 2: Homeowner Doug Quinn explains to Sen. Menendez how he's been low-balled by FEMA.
Photo 3: Sen. Menendez, Doug Quinn and his daughter Megan discuss the flood insurance runarounds Sandy victims are facing.