olga webSeventy-four-year-old Olga was scraping by on a fixed income in Far Rockaway when Superstorm Sandy hit. Her home was flooded and severely damaged, rendering it uninhabitable. She was unable to cover the cost of the repairs and was forced to move to a temporary rental apartment. Connecting with NYLAG at a local community center, Olga informed the NYLAG attorney that she had been approved for a government SBA loan of $62,500, which made her ineligible to receive a FEMA grant. However, with an annual income of only $20,000, coupled with high monthly medical and insurance expenses (which she had not known to include in her SBA application), Olga would never be able to repay the loan. The attorney helped her contact SBA and asked them to reconsider her approval by explaining her situation. As a result, SBA agreed to cancel the loan, allowing Olga to apply for a FEMA grant instead.

Olga returned to NYLAG after she was approved by FEMA for a grant of only $1,562 for personal property damage. She needed much more money to cover her home repairs and rental assistance. The attorney appealed the FEMA decision, securing Olga an additional $4,248 for rental assistance and $8,334 for repairs. When FEMA later indicated a plan to recoup $1,400 from the home repair grant, the attorney helped Olga document that the funds had been spent properly and avoided the recoupment.

Finally, as a condition of accepting FEMA funds, Olga was required to purchase flood insurance or face recoupment and disqualification from applying for FEMA benefits in the future. She discovered that the premium would cost $4,000 per year, which she could not afford. Feeling trapped, Olga contemplated returning the money to FEMA. Luckily, her attorney researched her options and referred her to a more affordable group flood insurance plan that would cover her home for three years. As a result, Olga saved approximately $12,000 in flood insurance premiums over three years and her home is protected in the case of future disasters.

Find out more about NYLAG’s Storm Response Unit.