Donovan Questions FEMA Administrator Fugate on Sandy Response
DONOVAN QUESTIONS FEMA ADMINISTRATOR FUGATE ON SANDY RESPONSE
After soliciting FEMA stories from constituents, Donovan shares their experiences with Fugate
Washington, DC—October 22, 2015....Congressman Dan Donovan (NY-11) today directed pointed questions to FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate on FEMA’s response to Superstorm Sandy (note: video of the exchange can be found on Donovan’s YouTube page.). Earlier this month, Donovan reached out to Sandy-impacted communities to gather stories directly from those who dealt with FEMA after the storm. After the hearing, Donovan personally delivered the stories to Fugate.
Congressman Donovan said, “It’s more effective to get the point across when I can put a face to what I’m saying – when I can personalize a problem. For example, Mrs. Lauer from Oakwood told my office her story. Her late husband was a firefighter and her son is a bus driver. She followed FEMA’s advice and applied to the SBA after the storm. She’s 72 years old and now has a 30-year, $126,000 Small Business Administration loan. Others in her neighborhood who waited for other assistance came away with full grant funding. It’s not fair, and it’s not right.”
Donovan’s first question to Administrator Fugate focused on FEMA’s guidance to disaster victims. After the storm, FEMA instructed registrants to apply for personal disaster assistance loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA), but failed to advise that applying for a loan could disqualify them from future recovery grants. Generally, this information gap caused neighbors – with the same level of damage and same incomes – to have different forms of relief. One neighbor who followed FEMA’s instruction and applied for an SBA loan must spend 30 years repaying it, while another neighbor who waited for other forms of assistance received full grant funding through Build it Back. More than half of the stories Donovan received from constituents addressed this one issue. Fugate acknowledged that FEMA should provide full information to applicants about the potential implications of applying for different forms of assistance.
Katherine from Midland Beach wrote in with a similar story. She said she “was told [she] had to submit to the SBA,” but when Katherine applied for Build it Back later on, she was told the full amount of her SBA loan offer must be deducted from any benefits she could receive through Build it Back. Others who waited for other assistance received full grant benefits from Build it Back.
Donovan continued, “Clearly, disaster victims were not given proper information. In the post-Sandy chaos, residents looked to FEMA for guidance on how to start picking up the pieces. Too many constituents to count have come to me with the same story: FEMA told me to apply for an SBA loan, and now I can’t get a Build it Back grant. This problem is systemic and it must be fixed.”
Shortly after taking office, Donovan cosponsored the Disaster Survivor Benefit Clarification Act, which would remove SBA loans from the duplication of benefits calculation that has harmed so many Sandy victims.
Among other topics, Donovan also asked Administrator Fugate when flood insurance premiums would change based on the Army Corps of Engineers’ seawall along Staten Island’s east shore. Fugate responded that FEMA could begin the premium reduction process even before the Corps completes its project. Donovan also implored FEMA to develop insurance premium credits for structures that cannot elevate, but take other risk-mitigating actions.