Calls on Federal Flood Insurance Program head to work with Jersey Delegation to establish retrospective claims process
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), Dean of the New Jersey Congressional Delegation, announced today that he will be hosting a meeting with Brad Kieserman, Deputy Associate Administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which oversees the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), in order to establish a new, workable process for revisiting and resolving all flood insurance claims brought by Sandy-affected homeowners. Kieserman agreed to the meeting to which Smith will invite the entire NJ congressional delegation.
“After a lengthy and productive phone conference with Mr. Kieserman, I look forward to hosting the meeting with the NJ delegation and getting to the bottom of these widespread and outrageous practices that are defrauding and cheating NJ Sandy victims, who are federal flood insurance policy holders,” Smith said. “I am pleased that FEMA has agreed with my and others’ request to review any and all potential underpayments to Sandy victims. We can now work together to establish a new, credible process moving forward.
“It is highly possible that many claimants who received reduced payments were also subject to the fraud that has been revealed in the lawsuits—i.e. altered engineering reports, the use of unlicensed engineers, and underpayment of claims due to well-under market cost estimates.” Smith said. “These homeowners must be timely notified of potential underpayments, and must be given a full opportunity to appeal their individual retrospective claim and receive full compensation.”
Smith and Kieserman discussed evidence that has come to light as the result of litigation, including fraudulent engineering reports, altered engineering reports, the use of unlicensed engineers, and in some cases, underpayments due to well-below-market cost estimates. “Mr. Kieserman assured me that FEMA will work closely with the delegation to address each and every issue facing Sandy victims and to implement necessary, fundamental reforms,” Smith said.” As I reiterated, I am prepared to assist in seeking additional statutory authority where necessary.”
Congressman Frank LoBiondo of Atlantic County, N.J. also represents a large shoreline area hit by Sandy and has been a leader in the fight for Sandy victims since the super storm hit in October 2012.
”I appreciate Chris Smith’s leadership as dean of the delegation on this critical issue and throughout the post-Sandy recovery effort,” said LoBiondo (NJ-02). “I’ve heard from many South Jersey constituents frustrated by FEMA’s claims process, wanting to finally move forward with their lives. I strongly support bringing the entire delegation together to get answers from FEMA directly.”
Smith noted that the delegation has repeatedly come together to fight for Sandy victims, from securing federal Homeland Security monies for NJ, to passing supplemental disaster funding and pressing Secretary Shaun Donovan of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for additional recovery assistance. “Last May, I invited then HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan to meet with the delegation when it became apparent that New Jersey homeowners were being shortchanged in disaster funding and facing arbitrary delays. At that session we secured an iron-clad commitment from Secretary Donovan to meet the critical housing needs of our constituents—resulting in an additional $881 million in HUD disaster relief funds in HUD’s third tranche for our state,”said Smith.
“We also worked together a year ago—with NFIP premiums poised to skyrocket—to push for the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, offering relief to New Jersey policyholders,” continued Smith. “Now, FEMA must restore accountability and confidence in the NFIP for the sake of its millions of policyholders, and our meeting will be the starting point.”