NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) -- New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said last week he is directing more than $730,000 in funds to groups providing legal services to victims of Superstorm Sandy.
Schneiderman said Wednesday the funds -- $732,000 -- will be awarded to 18 organizations currently funded under his office's Homeowner Protection Program, or HOPP.
Sandy's surge hit New York City on Oct. 29, flooding streets, tunnels and subway lines, cutting power in and around the city.
The attorney general said the money will help address issues related to the collection of insurance claims and other disaster-related benefits, in light of the impact the issues are having on homeownership and foreclosure prevention.
Such home-retention issues include improper denials of insurance claims, long delays collecting benefits, and insurance payments that are dramatically less than the homeowners expect under existing policies.
Schneiderman said he also will make some of his staff available to directly intervene with insurance companies and other Sandy-related benefit providers at the request of housing counselors and legal service providers.
"New Yorkers have already suffered enough as a result of Sandy -- there is no excuse for unnecessary delays or denials for homeowners who are fighting to rebuild their lives following this storm," he said in a statement.
"This initiative will ensure that homeowners have a champion to help them stand up to the powerful interests that are standing in the way of real relief."
The attorney general's initiative will direct funds to HOPP organizations that are already providing services to storm victims and who are active in the five most impacted counties: Queens, Kings, Richmond, Nassau and Suffolk.
Seven HOPP organizations will provide services on Long Island, in addition to 10 organizations that will provide services in New York City.
HOPP grantees in these regions have reported a "significant" influx of clients as a direct result of Sandy, according to the Attorney General's Office.
"Hundreds of homeowners have sought our help with Sandy problems so far, and almost all of them are fighting insurance denials, underpayments or delays," said Margaret Becker, co-director of the Homeowner Defense Project at Staten Island Legal Services.
"They need fair insurance settlements to be able to repair, rebuild and move home. We are so grateful to Attorney General Schneiderman for creating this initiative, without which, mortgage defaults and foreclosures will be inevitable."
Christie Peale, executive director of the Center for New York City Neighborhoods, a non-profit that will assist the attorney general in administering the initiative, agreed.
"Sandy hit hardest in communities that were already devastated by the foreclosure crisis," she noted.
"The overlay of insurance problems could have disastrous consequences on our collective effort to stabilize those communities."
Schneiderman said the funds will come from dollars the state obtained as a result of the nationwide mortgage settlement that was announced last February.
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.