Flood insurance companies are dragging their feet when processing claims from Tropical Storm Irene, and that delay is preventing homeowners from receiving disaster relief aid.
That's according to U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, who sent a letter Thursday to all New York flood insurance providers, asking them to speed up the processing of claims.
Schumer said recovery work is getting more difficult as temperatures continue to drop and snow begins to fall in the North Country. He said homeowners don't have time to worry about outstanding insurance claims.
This week, FEMA released preliminary data based on surveys of flood insurance companies. The numbers show that as much as two months after the Aug. 28 storm, about half of all claims filed have not been processed. In some cases, homeowners can't receive individual assistance until they've received official notification that their insurance claims have been turned down.
According to Schumer, his office has received many complaints about slow-moving insurance companies. The senator is now demanding that insurance companies issue a public report that details how many claims have been filed since Aug. 28, and how many have been processed. He also wants to know how long it took to process each claim.
"Plodding flood insurance providers can be a fly in the ointment that holds up the prompt delivery of desperately-needed federal aid," said Schumer. "Enough is enough. In order for FEMA to be responsive and put money on the ground, the private flood insurance firms must move more quickly to process and approve claims from those families and businesses that were harmed by these devastating storms."
The FEMA survey found that flood insurance companies received 14,500 claims after Irene. To date, just 62 percent have been processed.
"We need focused, intense and prompt follow up, not lollygagging-insurance-company-business-as-usual when it comes to processing the claims of families and small businesses that were hammered and need to make repairs, now, before winter sets in," Schumer said.