HADDON HEIGHTS – At Governor Chris Christie’s 122nd town hall meeting in Haddon Heights on Wednesday, Lindsay Fuller, a Beach Haven resident displaced since Hurricane Sandy in 2012, asked the governor a question apropos of the time in New Jersey: summer rental season.
“An [Ocean County] freeholder account of [rental properties] last June that would not be available on the rental market in Ocean and Monmouth counties was a total of 32,000, and of course we know that tourism in a big industry in the area. They just finished an account for this year, and it’s 22,000 [rental properties]. That’s still a pretty good hit. That’s still people who won’t come down the Shore and spend their money,” said Fuller to Christie. “We know what the problem is – insurance companies, both homeowner and flood, are dragging their feet unbelievably. The Ocean County freeholders sent you a resolution asking you to tell the insurance commissioners to in turn tell the companies that when you get a claim, you’ve got 30 days. I need your help.”
“The only companies that the insurance commisioners have jurisdiction over are the homeowner companies, and the homeowner companies represent about 5 percent of the overall claimants,” replied Christie. “The claims are predominantly. 95 percent, flood claims. There is only one flood insurance company – the federal government, the national flood insurance plan. It’s administered by the companies, but under rules by the federal government. The state has no jurisdiction over them. The federal government refused to arbitrate or mediate these claims for Sandy victims. They said they either have to accept what they give them through our appeal process or they can sue their own government.
“I would love to be able to say to the national flood insurance plan, hey, pay [the claims] in 30 days. They don’t listen,” Christie said. “I personally asked the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) [W. Craig Fugate], who runs the national flood insurance plan, to agree to the arbitration and mediation program, and they refused to do so. And so that’s part of the problem. The fact that the rental properties have gone from 32,000 to 22,000, down a third in a year, is not great progress, but good progress.”
But in a follow-up interview with PolitickerNJ.com, Fuller, a member of the Ocean County Tourism Advisory Council and the president of the Beach Haven Charter Fishing Association, said that both Christie and the federal government should be doing more to help the Jersey Shore continue to economically recover from Hurricane Sandy, especially regarding the behavior of insurance companies.
“It’s easy for the insurance companies to hide behind the federal government,” Fuller said. “President Obama and Christie had a hug fest at the time of Hurricane Sandy. They need to have one more hug fest and make FEMA process these claims as soon as possible so that people can survive and rebuild.”