“There really is no downside. You should definitely reopen your case,” said George Kasimos, leader of the citizens’ activist group Stop FEMA Now. From his standpoint, storm victims have nothing to lose. In the best-case scenario, he explained, any new money a homeowner receives that’s not considered a duplication of benefits is a windfall. In the worst case, a homeowner could be forced to repay all additional flood insurance money they get — minus legal expenses — so they basically break even.
“Let’s say you’ve got $50,000 additional flood-insurance money,” he said. “Just keep it in a bank account. It’s your money today unless RREM asks for it. And then when you close out of the RREM program, let them know. Worst case, you work it out there. That’s not going to stop you from continuing to rebuild at all.”
Two-and-a-half years after Sandy, he acknowledged that many storm victims feel worn down and are ready to move on. Yet he thinks it’s important for people who feel they were shortchanged to stand up for their rights.
“If we only open up 500 claims out of everybody, FEMA’s going to come back and say, ‘We made some small mistakes. No big deal,’” he said. “But if we open up tens of thousands of claims and instead of them having to refund $15 or 20 million, it’s $500 million or a billion dollars — some big number — then somebody in Congress is going to say, ‘These people are incompetent. There’s more significant fraud going on than we even thought.’ That’s what I want to get out.”