Menendez Gets Renewed Commitment for Reform from New FEMA Flood Insurance Chief

Menendez Gets Renewed Commitment for Reform from New FEMA Flood Insurance Chief

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez met yesterday with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) new head of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The Senator pressed Deputy Associate Administrator Roy Wright and received assurances that, despite a change in leadership, FEMA’s claims review process will be a fair and efficient second chance for Sandy victims who were underpaid by their flood insurance to get what they deserve.

“I had a productive meeting with Deputy Associate Administrator Wright during which we discussed how the reopening of claims has been proceeding as well as long-term reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program,” Sen. Menendez said after the meeting. “Specifically, Mr. Wright committed to provide clarification on a number of issues that Sandy survivors and their advocacy groups have raised, such as duplication of benefits and substantial damage determinations. I fought long and hard to get FEMA to reopen these cases and will continue to oversee this process every step of the way to ensure it’s done fairly and Sandy survivors get every penny they’re entitled to.”

In a private meeting in Sen. Menendez’s D.C. office, Mr. Wright, who replaced Brad Kieserman this month, reaffirmed FEMA’s committment to do right by Sandy survivors, and work with the Menendez-led Sandy Task Force to develop long-term reforms to fix a broken NFIP.

Mr. Wright also agreed to provide, in writing, FEMA’s commitment that any supplemental flood insurance payment received through the claims review process will not be factored into the calculation to determine if the property was “substantially damaged”. Sandy victims whose original damage assessment was below 50% of the assessed value of their home, have feared that an increase in NFIP funds resulting from the review process could increase their damage assessment above the 50% threshold, classifying their home as “substantially damaged” — a designation which requires homeowners to comply with FEMA flood zones and height requirements when they rebuild, and in many cases, elevate their home up to the new code.

Sen. Menendez also received clarification from Mr. Wright that no Sandy victim receiving additional insurance money would be obligated to then write a check to the state or any other entity that has previously provided them assistance. Mr. Wright explained that the government will do its duplication of benefits analysis up front before the claims review is completed, giving any homeowner who may have maxed out on benefits an opportunity to decline before receiving any additional funds.

As a result of continued efforts by the Sandy Task Force, led by Sen. Menendez, along with Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), FEMA agreed to offer Superstorm Sandy victims who filed flood insurance claims—over 142,000 homeowners—the opportunity to reopen their claim if they feel they were underpaid and are not currently in litigation. FEMA continues to work towards settling the approximately 2,200 cases in litigation.

Sen. Menendez pledged to continue to hold FEMA to the promises it’s made and oversee the agency’s progress on implementing critical reforms to ensure the NFIP works better for the policyholder.