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Michael Rubinkam, Associated Press
In this Dec. 21, 2011 photo, Freeman and Vikki White pose for a photograph in front of their flood-damaged home in West Pittston, Pa. The couple and their children remain out of the home more than three months after West Pittston suffered catastrophic flooding during Tropical Storm Lee.

WEST PITTSTON, Pa. — More than three months after storms Irene and Lee deluged thousands of homes and businesses in the Northeast, the pace of recovery remains frustratingly slow for victims of the back-to-back disasters.

Many of them will be out of their homes for Christmas. The culprit is red tape.

Thousands of flood insurance claims have yet to be processed, leaving homeowners without the means to pay for extensive repairs. And grants distributed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency often don't begin to cover the damage to homes whose first floors were submerged.

The result is that cash-strapped flood victims are buying materials when they can and doing much of the renovation work themselves, with the help of friends and donated or discounted labor from contractors.