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Congressman Dan Donovan

Representing the 11th District of New York

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Donovan, State/Local Elected Officials Call On FEMA To Finish Overdue Report On Flood Mitigation Options

September 3, 2015
Press Release
Federal law required FEMA to issue guidelines by March 2015 that would give homeowners options in reducing flood premiums

Staten Island, NY—September 3, 2015....Congressman Dan Donovan (NY-11), together with state and local elected representatives for Staten Island and Brooklyn, today sent FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate a letter urging the agency to comply with federal law by releasing flood mitigation options. At present, elevation is the only home mitigation activity that results in substantial flood insurance premium reductions. Many homeowners cannot elevate their homes because of financial or technical obstacles. The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act required FEMA by March 2015 to provide options other than elevation that would reduce risk and flood insurance premiums.

"It is a cruel irony that federal policy awards billions of dollars in post-disaster assistance, but discourages actions that can reduce loss from future storms,” Congressman Donovan said. “While FEMA dithers, homes continue to face high risk from flood damage because no insurance guidelines have been issued for alternatives to elevation."

State Senator Diane J. Savino added, "It's a disgrace that FEMA has still not provided different options to their customers who cannot afford to elevate their homes, especially since the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act required them to do so by March of this year. We cannot allow homeowners to continue to wait in limbo with no alternative options, especially when this is an ongoing concern.  We want our constituents to not only be properly prepared in the event of another storm but adequately insured as well."

State Senator Andrew J. Lanza said, "The people of Staten Island and the state cannot afford to wait any longer for FEMA to develop and pronounce flood mitigation guidelines.  The lesson of Sandy is that we are on borrowed time and FEMA inaction is allowing the hourglass sands to continue to pile the odds against us."

"It is critical that FEMA considers mitigation efforts being made in our community by the city and state and by homeowners themselves when developing flood insurance rates. Currently, FEMA only considers home elevation for lower flood insurance rates but New York City is not like southern hurricane states and is uniquely developed with many semi-attached homes, townhouses and multiple dwellings, which makes elevation often impossible.  With more residents being added to the flood zone, it is critical that FEMA offers alternative mitigation options before the new flood maps are approved in 2017," said Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis.

"With flood insurance premiums skyrocketing, it is vitally important that FEMA announce alternate options so that homeowners who cannot afford elevating their homes can still be eligible for a reduction in their premium," stated Assemblyman Joseph C. Borelli. "The delay in the release of these options, which could assist economically burdened Staten Island homeowners who were affected by the storm, is an example of government bureaucracy at its worst."

Assemblyman Michael Cusick said, "I join with my colleagues from Staten Island and Brooklyn in inquiring about the reason for delay in FEMA announcing guidelines on flood risk mitigation. As we enter the heart of another hurricane season, it is critical that our citizens have the knowledge and ability to protect their homes from potential storm damage and I urge FEMA to act expediently."

"Victims of Superstorm Sandy have suffered enough and they should not suffer more due to government delays," added Assemblyman Matthew Titone. "We urge FEMA to meet its congressionally mandated obligation."

Staten Island Borough President James Oddo stated, “I recently spoke of how important it is that we do not allow the ‘acts of man’ to compound the pain caused by an ‘act of God.’ Here is an example of an ‘omission of man,’ in this case a federal agency failing to issue guidance that could help homeowners who were victimized by Sandy get on with their lives and plan for the future. I stand with my colleagues in calling on FEMA to issue the guidelines that are required by federal law.”  

Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams said, "FEMA's mismanagement continues to hurt homeowners in Brooklyn, compounding the damage that Superstorm Sandy left in its wake across our borough. Despite the clear and undeniable fact that a range of flood mitigation options exist to help reduce burdensome insurance premiums, there has been an inexcusable lack of action to outline those options to the public. On behalf of long-suffering Brooklynites, I stand with a bipartisan delegation of New York City's lawmakers to demand accountability for FEMA's inability to comply with federally-mandated deadlines."

"Whether neglecting its responsibility to oversee flood insurance claims, failing to study the affordability of premiums or ignoring a legal mandate to provide homeowners with guidance on how to reduce flood risk and cost, FEMA fiddles while New Yorkers struggle, stated Council Minority Leader Steven Matteo. "As we approach the third anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, the time is long past due for FEMA to provide the assistance homeowners desperately need to make their homes safe and sustainable."

"New Yorkers who are still struggling to rebuild their homes and lives nearly three years after Sandy deserve to at least know all of their options to protect their property and reduce their substantial flood insurance premiums. FEMA must be much more responsible in light of the incredible strain this inaction is causing for thousands of residents who remain at risk of flood damage. I applaud Rep. Donovan and my colleagues for pushing FEMA to immediately rectify this situation and allow storm victims to finally move forward with vital resiliency measures," said Council Member Mark Treyger, Chair of the Council Committee on Recovery & Resiliency.

Council Member Debi Rose added, "While many of us would like to think of Superstorm Sandy as a once-in-a-lifetime event, scientists tell us otherwise. Recognizing the probability of severe storms in our future, the federal government should be encouraging homeowners to safeguard their houses and protect them from losses caused by flooding. Our current FEMA policy is deficient in this area, as it fails to provide adequate incentives for homeowners. I join my fellow elected officials in calling on FEMA to expand the list of home mitigation measures that would qualify homeowners for flood insurance premium reductions."

Council Member Vincent Gentile said, "It is unfathomable to me that, as we enter the peak of hurricane season, FEMA has yet to issue alternative flood mitigation guidelines for residents living in prone areas. FEMA was required by Congress to issue new guidelines a year following the law's enactment, in March 2014. We are currently six months past the due date and still, nearly three years after Sandy, affected residents aren't receiving the help and resources they need from our government."

Flood mitigation options other than elevation exist, and FEMA even recognizes them in other programs. For example, commercial properties may dry floodproof to protect against loss and reduce insurance premiums. Additionally, New York City’s resiliency report, A Stronger, More Resilient New York, called on FEMA to develop mitigation credits for resiliency measures.

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