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Congresswoman Clarke, Bi-Partisan Group of Congressional Members Urge FEMA to Ex-tend the Deadline for Flood Insurance Claims for Homeowners

Representative Yvette D. Clarke, with a bipartisan group of her colleagues in the Senate and the House of Representatives, has asked FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate for at least a six-month extension for thousands of Hurricane Sandy-impacted homeowners to file flood insurance claims.

Under the National Flood Insurance Program managed by FEMA, these homeowners must file a Proof of Loss form, a statement on the amount that the homeowner is claiming under his or her flood insurance policy, by October 29, 2013 to become eligible for coverage for flood damage.

Many families have been unable to file this form by the deadline because the repair work on their homes has not yet started or has become more expensive than expected.

The letter stated: “Our offices are aware of many families who are still waiting for work to begin on their homes. These families could be left homeless indefinitely if they are not able to meet the proof of loss deadline for National Flood Insurance Program claims. As you know, this deadline is a little over a month away and we strongly request that it be extended by at least an additional six months to accommodate the ongoing recovery needs of our constituents…  While we are aware that FEMA has the authority to approve on a case-by-case basis claims submitted after the one year deadline, we believe that a blanket extension for every homeowner should be in place to ensure a fair and proper process for everyone. To deny these claims based purely on the timing of their paperwork pulls the rug out from underneath homeowners who are relying on their flood insurance policies to repair and rebuild their homes. 

The letter originated with Senator Charles Schumer and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and was also co-signed by Representatives Charles Rangel (D-NY), Grace Meng (D-NY), Michael Grimm (R-NY), Steve Israel (D-NY), Joe Crowley (D-NY), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Tim Bishop (D-NY), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY),  Pete King (R-NY), Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Jon Runyan (R-NJ), Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Rob Andrews (D-NJ), Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ).

Full text of the letter:

Dear Administrator Fugate,

We are writing to bring your attention to an urgent matter affecting thousands of individuals in Superstorm Sandy-ravaged communities who are in the midst of recovery. Our offices are aware of many families who are still waiting for work to begin on their homes. These families could be left homeless indefinitely if they are not able to meet the proof of loss deadline for National Flood Insurance Program claims. As you know, this deadline is a little over a month away and we strongly request that it be extended at least an additional six months to accommodate the ongoing recovery needs of our constituents. 

Superstorm Sandy was an unprecedented storm that left thousands of residents homeless and many communities destroyed. Because of the magnitude of the storm and the number of affected individuals and homes, the recovery process has been long and arduous. Families have had to navigate this rebuilding process, which involves multiple steps and layers of bureaucracy, without any previous experience or institutional knowledge.

Due to these circumstances, we applauded FEMA when it issued a conditional and partial waiver of the Proof of Loss requirement in the Standard Flood Insurance Policy (SFIP) from the traditional 60 days to a full year. However, as we continue to assess rebuilding conditions and the progress that has been made in 11 months, it is clear that another extension is not only warranted but very necessary.

As our constituents piece together what resources are currently available to them from the States, FEMA, non-profits and their insurance companies, it is important for them to keep as many options available to them as possible. As you know, many of the proof of loss filings are made as homeowners become aware of additional expenses through their contractors as work begins on their home and were not quantified on initial visual inspections. Even “closed” FEMA claims could be contested if homeowners provide documentation warranting the release of additional funds. These hidden costs, if deemed legitimate, should not be denied coverage based on bureaucracy.

While we are aware that FEMA has the authority to approve on a case-by-case basis claims submitted after the one year deadline, we believe that a blanket extension for every homeowner should be in place to ensure a fair and proper process for everyone. To deny these claims based purely on the timing of their paperwork pulls the rug out from underneath homeowners who are relying on their flood insurance policies to repair and rebuild their homes. 

 

Thank you for your attention to this urgent request. 

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U.S. Representative Yvette D. Clarke is a member of the House Committee on Small Business, Ethics, and Homeland Security, where she is the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies. She represents many neighborhoods in central and southern Brooklyn, NY which include Brownsville, Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Flatbush, Gerritsen Beach, Madison, Midwood, parts of Park Slope and Flatlands, Prospect Heights, Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, Sheepshead Bay, and Windsor Terrace.

 

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