On August 13th, Governor Cuomo asked U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro to waive the Duplications of benefits regulation for homeowners affected by Superstorm Sandy. Duplication of benefits arises when a policyholder is paid for their property loss from one source (ie insurance carrier or government run program) and receive additional funding from another source that covers the same damages.
In the aftermath of Sandy, government run programs like New York Rising in New York and the Rehabilitation, Reconstruction, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) in New Jersey were set up to provide additional funding to policyholders who received inadequate compensation from their insurance carrier to put them in the same position they were in before the storm. These programs, while limited in funding, were set up and began issuing payments long before FEMA decided to reopen all 144,000 flood claims. Since FEMA has reopened the claims, many policyholders have received additional payments which, in some cases, duplicates monies already paid to them by government programs such as NY Rising.
Commissioner of New York State Homes and Community Renewal, Jamie Rubin, explained:
Waiving the duplication of benefits requirement in these cases is public policy that makes sense for both the Federal and State government, in terms of time, money and precious resources, which must continue to be directed to rebuilding resilient communities. Importantly, our mission is also to quickly and effectively serve the homeowners who live in these communities and experienced Sandy’s devastating effects first-hand, which we believe is best accomplished by sparing them additional hardship.
That additional hardship he’s referring to is the realization that if the duplication of benefits regulation is not waived, many policyholders affected by Sandy who received additional funding from NY Rising must pay that money back if they received additional funds from FEMA or the National Flood Insurance Program. NY Rising has provided nearly $800 million to approximately 11,000 homeowners. From one Sandy victim’s perspective and current Merlin Law Group attorney, it seems as though the financial burden on government agencies to recoup the duplicative money is far outweighed by the necessity of the homeowners and business owners to have a little extra cash to get them back on their feet.
The Stafford Act permits the waiver of the Duplications of Benefits requirements when the head of an agency considers it to be in the best interest of the federal government. For more information about NY Rising please visit their website.
I’ll leave you with this quote from Hall of Fame pitcher, Bob Feller:
“Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again. That’s the way life is, with a new game every day, and that’s the way baseball is.”