A small crowd of Huntington residents whose property was damaged in Hurricane Sandy took their questions to a FEMA representative Wednesday. It was the second session this week at the South Huntington Public Library.
Questions involving trees, coverage or reimbursement for generators needed for medical devices, blocked driveways and gas purchases were part of the discussion.
FEMA representative Graham Bingham took care to differentiate the role of the federal agency from an insurance company.
"We’re not going to do for you what your insurance company is supposed to do. We have to be good stewards of our tax money and so people can’t claim both insurance and FEMA," Bingham said. "FEMA doesn’t want to give money to those who don't really need it."
That said, Bingham provided details advice on how to receive help from the federal agency.
He told residents seeking assistance how to register and what to watch for in documents. Homeowners might receive applications for loans from the Small Business Administration, he said. He encouraged homeowners to consider the loans and not just reject the paperwork, thinking it wasn't meant for them. The SBA works with FEMA to help homeowners, not just businesses, obtain low-cost loans during a crisis.
And if the SBA determined that an applicant wouldn't qualify for a loan, he said, the paperwork would be sent to FEMA for consideration of a grant. But the application has to go through the SBA first.
To several questions about trees, he said that the only time FEMA would help with tree problems would be if one fell on a house and someone was in danger.
People need to read their insurance policies very carefully, he said. "We're not like an insurance company. We only cover the essentials," meaning such necessities as a boiler. "Our responsibility is to make sure a person's house is safe, sanitary and functional," he said.
He said people who are experiencing problems with their insurance companies can call a state financial services insurance disaster hotline at 1-800-339-1759.