Runyan Joins Bipartisan Group of Congressional Members to Urge FEMA to Extend Deadline for Flood Insurance Claims for Sandy Homeowners

WASHINGTON, D.C. – October 1, 2013 – (RealEstateRama) — On Friday, Congressman Jon Runyan joined a bipartisan group of Senators and House Members from New York and New Jersey urging FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate to grant a six-month extension for thousands of Sandy-impacted homeowners to file flood insurance claims. Under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) managed by FEMA, Sandy-impacted homeowners must file a Proof of Loss (POL) form, a statement on the amount that the homeowner is claiming under his or her flood insurance policy, by October 29th in order to be eligible for coverage for flood damage. Many families, however, are unable to meet this deadline in time because they are still waiting for repair work to begin on their homes or only recently become aware of additional expenses as they start to repair and rebuild. Federal officials requested an immediate extension to ensure that all homeowners have a fair process when it comes to filing their flood insurance claims and receiving the full benefits they are entitled to.

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Led by Senators Gillibrand and Schumer, the lawmakers wrote in a letter to FEMA Administrator Fugate, “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 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 was co-signed by Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Jeff Chiesa (R-NJ), and Representatives Charles Rangel (D-NY), Grace Meng (D-NY), Michael Grimm (R-NY), Steve Israel (D-NY), Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Timothy Bishop (D-NY), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), Chris Smith (D-NY), Jon Runyan (R-NJ), Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Rob Andrews (D-NJ), and Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ), Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Peter King (R-NY), and Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ).

The officials applauded FEMA’s efforts to extend the Proof of Loss requirement from the traditional 60 days to a full year, but noted that 11 months after Superstorm Sandy devastated communities across New York and New Jersey, a minimum of a six-month extension is not only warranted but necessary.

Many 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 factored into the initial inspections. Even “closed” FEMA claims could be contested if homeowners provide the necessary documentation. These hidden costs, officials pointed out, should not be denied coverage based on bureaucracy.

Full text of the letter is below:

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 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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