By Michael Hill
“I was surprised,” said Janet Sharma.
And so are many others at the resignation of FEMA’s Brad Kisserman, who was supervising the Sandy claims review process just getting started.
Sharma of the Hurricane Sandy Recovery Project in Bergen County — where Sandy flooded thousands of houses and properties.
“He seemed like such a bright, dynamic, committed man. And I’m just hopeful that’s he’s inspired that same dynamic in that team he must have put together,” Sharma said.
On Friday, Sharma stood with Kieserman and Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker in Hoboken where Kierserman urged 74,000 New Jerseyans to have their claims reviewed.
Kieserman took over the flood insurance program in February after reports that insurers used doctored engineering reports to low ball payouts to property owners.
Sens. Menendez and Booker credit him with listening and FEMA agreeing to review nearly 142,000 claims. Kieserman assured policyholders the review would be thorough and fair.
“We’re going to be reasonable in what we expect and we’re going to be reasonable in the execution of this program,” Kieserman said.
Booker said he wishes Kieserman could stay to see the claims review process to the end, but, in a statement the senator said, “whoever succeeds Mr. Kieserman at FEMA should understand that Sen. Menendez and I will continue holding their feet to the fire to demand accountability on behalf of New Jerseyans affected by Sandy. We will keep working to ensure that every Sandy survivor gets every bit of help they deserve and should have received. And we expect the next head of insurance at FEMA to be a willing partner in this effort.”
Sen. Menendez said he appreciates Kierserman’s service and “I expect FEMA to follow through with its commitment to ensure all Sandy victims get what they’re entitled and to reform its broken National Flood Insurance Program to make it more responsive to the policyholder. I further expect that Mr. Kieserman’s replacement will bring the same level of candor and willingness to fix the mess that has stunted the recovery for so many Sandy victims.”
Kieserman’s leaving next week to join the American Red Cross. Last week he said his passion for helping people comes from watching his grandparents suffer after Hurricane Agnes in 1972.
“The lesson that I took away from that is that someone needs to help people when they most need help,” he said.
Sen. Menendez says regardless of who’s at the helm of the National Flood Insurance Program, his Sandy task force will continue to thoroughly examine the program, oversee the review process and make recommendations so that future storm victims will never have to endure what Sandy survivors have for nearly three years.