Rep. Dan Donovan sponsors FEMA reform bill as his first
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- In his first bill sponsored in Congress, Rep. Daniel Donovan's Flood Insurance Mitigation and Policyholder Protection Act (FIMPPA) addresses fraudulent engineering practices, flawed appeals process and overdue flood insurance reforms for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
While running for Congress, Donovan (R-Staten Island/Brooklyn) promised to make FEMA reform a focus of his time in office.
"I've met too many homeowners trying in vain to navigate a flawed bureaucracy," he said in a statement. "This bill addresses three of the most egregious issues with FEMA's recovery process: engineering reports, claims appeals and options to reduce insurance premiums for homeowners. Piece by piece, we can work to lessen the burden for those still going through this nightmare and to apply lessons learned to future disasters."
In the first of three sections, the bill addresses engineering reports, which were the focus of post-Sandy investigations after "60 Minutes" revealed reports were fraudulently altered to minimize damage claims.
The act would require engineers and adjusters to provide report copies to the policyholder before providing copies to anybody else to eliminate the opportunity to fraudulently alter them.
The second section addresses the appeals process for policyholders.
Currently, to contest a claim denial, policyholders can appeal to FEMA or file a lawsuit within one year of the denial. Once a lawsuit is filed, though, the FEMA appeal ends without decision. This forces policyholders to file lawsuits if FEMA does not resolve the appeal within a year. The act would extend the deadline for filing suit to allow people time to first pursue their FEMA appeal in full.
The third section institutes a 60-day deadline for FEMA to produce its report on alternate flood mitigation options for homes. Right now, homeowners looking to protect their properties from flood risk and lower their flood insurance premiums can only elevate the home. The act requires FEMA to finish a report offering options other than elevation to protect a home from flood risk and to reduce insurance premiums. This follows a Sept. 3 letter from Donovan and local officials asking FEMA why its report is delayed and urging the agency to act quickly.
"There are countless other problems plaguing FEMA, and it will take time to untangle them," Donovan said. "FIMPPA is a productive first step, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to continue focusing on this costly problem."
The legislation will be referred to the House Committee on Financial Services.