Donovan Targets FEMA Reforms in First Bill
Washington, DC—September 9, 2015....After focusing intensely on Sandy recovery issues during his first four months in office, Congressman Dan Donovan (NY-11) today introduced his first bill in Congress. H.R. 3456, the Flood Insurance Mitigation and Policyholder Protection Act (FIMPPA) follows through on calls for FEMA reform Donovan made during his campaign.
“I’ve met too many homeowners trying in vain to navigate a flawed bureaucracy. 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."
FIMPPA has three sections. The first addresses engineering reports, which were the focus of post-Sandy investigations after 60 Minutes revealed reports were fraudulently altered to minimize damage claims. During the claims adjustment process, an engineering report may pass through multiple reviewers before final approval or rejection. The policyholder has no visibility into this process or into any of the changes that might be made to the original report. FIMPPA would require engineers and adjustors to provide copies of their reports to the policyholder before providing copies to anybody else. This would eliminate the opportunity to fraudulently alter an engineering report without the policyholder’s knowledge.
The second section focuses on the process through which flood insurance policyholders may appeal their claim decision. Right now, those who wish to contest a claim denial may appeal to FEMA or file a lawsuit within one year of the original denial. Once a lawsuit is filed, though, the FEMA appeal ends without decision. This flawed procedure forces policyholders to file lawsuits if FEMA does not resolve the appeal within a year, costing taxpayers money and placing added burdens on flood victims. FIMPPA would extend the deadline for filing suit to allow claimants time to first pursue their FEMA appeal in full.
The third section institutes a 60-day deadline for FEMA to produce its overdue 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 have only one good option: elevate the structure. Elevation is costly and, in some cases, not even possible. FIMPPA 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 September 3 letter from Donovan and local officials asking FEMA why its report is delayed and urging the agency to act expeditiously.
"There are countless other problems plaguing FEMA, and it will take time to untangle them. FIMPPA is a productive first step, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to continue focusing on this costly problem."
As a next step, the legislation will be referred to the House Committee on Financial Services.