Bay Ridge

Donovan looks to reform FEMA with legislation

September 11, 2015 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan signs an official notice authorizing his bill to be introduced in the House of Representatives.
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U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan, who was elected to Congress in May, introduced his first piece of legislation on Sept. 9, a bill to overhaul the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) which came under fire in many quarters for its response to Superstorm Sandy.

Donovan (R-C-Southwest Brooklyn-Staten Island) said his proposed legislation, the Flood Insurance Mitigation and Policyholder Protection Act (FIMPPA), will help homeowners.

His district was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy, he said. The storm blew into New York City on Oct. 29, 2012 and many homeowners are still struggling to recover.

“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,” Donovan said in a statement

The bill’s first section seeks to address problems stemming from engineering reports, according to Donovan, who said the reports were the focus of post-Sandy investigations after 60 Minutes aired a segment revealing that documents were fraudulently altered to minimize damage claims.

FIMPPA would require engineers and adjustors to provide copies of their reports to the policyholder before providing copies to anyone else. Donovan said the requirement would eliminate the chance an engineer could alter a report.

The second section of the bill deals with the process by which policyholders can appeal a decision on an insurance claim. Under current rules, a policyholder has to file an appeal within one year of the original denial. Once a lawsuit is filed, however, the FEMA appeal ends without a decision. Donovan’s bill would extend the deadline for filing suit to give claimants time to first pursue their FEMA appeal.

The third section institutes a 60-day deadline for FEMA to produce a report on alternate flood mitigation options for homes.

Current regulations mandate that homeowners who are looking to protect their properties from flood risk and lower their flood insurance premiums have only one option: elevate the structure.

FIMPPA would require FEMA to complete a report offering different options other than elevation to protect a home from flood risk and to reduce insurance premiums

“There are countless other problems plaguing FEMA, and it will take time to untangle them,” said Donovan, who called his bill, “a productive first step.”

The bill will be referred to the House Committee on Financial Services.

Donovan, the former Staten Island district attorney, was elected to Congress in a special election on May 5. The election was held to replace former congressman Michael Grimm, who was indicted on a tax fraud charge and who later pleaded guilty. Grimm resigned from Congress in January.

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