On Wednesday, 11 members of New Jersey's congressional delegation - in a rare show of bipartisanship - joined the chorus of outrage about what is seen as the Federal Emergency Management Agency's slow response to claims from Hurricane Sandy.

The senators and members of the House from shore districts echoed the outrage expressed by Gov. Chris Christie in Union Beach earlier this month. In the take-no-prisoners style that residents seem to find endearing - whether he is using it to take on natural disasters or Washington functionaries - Christie called FEMA's handling of claims "a disgrace" and said its rate of response "has stunk."

Christie charged that three months after the storm, while private insurers have closed 85 percent of Sandy-related claims, FEMA has handled only 30 percent of National Flood Insurance Program claims in New Jersey.

FEMA says that figure is incorrect and that more than half of the 73,000 claims in New Jersey have been settled. The agency also says it is allowing advance payments and partial payments and has speeded up its paperwork process.

And, it should be said, the speed with which claims are handled isn't the only measure of how well insurers are doing. Some New Jersey residents are finding that their insurance checks are for far less than what they expected, and far less than the cost of rebuilding their damaged homes.

That's just one of the problems facing owners of the 346,000 properties damaged or destroyed by Sandy who find themselves awash in paperwork, delay and uncertainty. Some of that may be inevitable, but much of it sounds like Franz Kafka is writing the post-Sandy narrative.

Some residents still aren't sure, for instance, what elevation to rebuild to. While Christie has adopted preliminary FEMA flood elevation maps, in some towns, mayors are pledging to appeal the maps, which do not take into account flood mitigation structures such as dunes and bulkheads. Do you wait for such an appeal, which could change height requirements, or go ahead and raise your house now?

Not that people aren't trying to help.

Christie's announcement last week that state Comptroller Matthew Boxer will be in charge of handling the billions of dollars in federal aid coming into the state for Sandy reconstruction projects was welcome news and should ensure that the money is well accounted for.

Some of that aid will come in the form of block grants, which state officials say will be used to help property owners fill the gaps between insurance payments and the cost of rebuilding.

Yes, FEMA should have more of a sense of urgency about settling claims. Banks holding mortgages on damaged properties must be more flexible and must understand that in many cases rebuilding properties exactly as they were is not an option. The state must make sure insurance companies pay policy holders the full amount they are owed.

And elected officials can help, not just by putting pressure on the federal bureaucracy, but by being a resource for their constituents in navigating the maze of paperwork and confusing requirements.

But there's no way around the reality for many shore towns and for thousands of state residents. This is a mess, and it will be a mess for a long time.

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