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Wednesday, February 13, 2013 - 9:46am
(CNN) — Banks are holding more than $200 million in insurance payments meant for victims of Superstorm Sandy, nearly four months after the storm made landfall, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday.
The Cuomo administration said it has delivered letters to various banks and mortgage service providers asking they "use maximum discretion and effort to speed the release of funds."
"Families need to be able to return to their homes and the state economy, which took a hit from Superstorm Sandy, needs the boost from spending on repairs," Cuomo said in a written statement. "After insurance companies have sent homeowners checks to pay for repairs, the money should not be sitting with the bank because of red tape."
The state's Department of Financial Services found that four of the biggest U.S. banks -- Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citibank and JP Morgan Chase -- are holding more than 4,100 checks worth more $130 million. The banks were not immediately available for comment, though have maintained that they were socked with a massive amount in payouts that require processing in the wake of the storm.
Thousands of storm-battered residents are still awaiting a total of $208 million in insurance checks.
Cuomo said the payouts are often issued jointly to the homeowner and their bank or mortgage servicer, which then requires the "bank's endorsement of the check before the homeowner may access the funds."
Delays can follow when banks request proof of repairs or servicing required by federal mortgage agencies. But many residents have complained that they haven't received the funds they need to start the repairs.
Superstorm Sandy left 132 people dead in the United States and contributed to tens of billions of dollars worth of damages, especially along shoreline communities in New York, New Jersey and parts of Connecticut.