Many are still recovering from Hurricane Sandy damage, including in the 13th congressional district represented by Congressman Albio Sires. Sires told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that he is working to ensure insurance companies pay out to policy holders impacted by the storm. He also said he wants the government to put money aside for catastrophic events.
While Sires said most places are getting back to normal, it has been difficult with power outages. He also said Hoboken had incredible devastation and the PATH is still not up and running because many signals were damaged by the storm. Sires said he has been in touch with Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer about the situation residents of basement apartments face after the storm. FEMA and flood insurance may not cover their residences because they are considered basements.
“Some of the insurance companies are backing away from it. I raised this issue with the governor when we had a meeting with the governor,” Sires explained. “I said, ‘You know, we better keep an eye on this because the insurance companies, they have to pay.'”
While Sires said he hasn’t heard any reports of insurance companies denying claims, he’s afraid some will. “I want to make sure that they do the right thing by the people of Hoboken and the other residents,” he said.
Sires has introduced legislation that would act as catastrophe insurance to protect taxpayers after a major disaster. “Basically it is co-insurance,” he explained. “People get ready for catastrophic events like we had and there is a pile of money there that they can access.”
The government would co-sign the policy, according to Sires. He said he got the idea from a colleague in Florida, which has weathered many hurricanes. “I personally think that we’re going to continue getting this type of weather for a while,” Sires said.
Sires supports government buyouts of homes in flood-prone areas and projects that would replenish beaches. He said beach restoration projects proved they work during Hurricane Sandy because beaches that didn’t undergo restoration sustained greater damage than those that did.
Some may question the financial ability to undertake such projects, but Sires said the money will be found. “When New Orleans got hit very hard, we somehow managed to find the money. I don’t want people to say well now in New Jersey we don’t have the money,” he said. “New Jersey is a very important state, generates a lot of jobs for this country and we need to pay attention as much to New Jersey as we did to New Orleans.”
Worry over the so-called fiscal cliff may encourage more compromise between Democrats and Republicans going forward. Sires said he has heard rumblings from Republicans that they are backing away from a pledge on no tax increases.
“I think we’re going to get something done before the end of the year,” Sires said. “What the package looks like, I’m not privy to that. They’re probably meeting today on it.”