Smith: Establishment of Flood Insurance Advocate Long Overdue
Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) released the following statement in response to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) establishment of an Interim Office of the Flood Insurance Advocate:
“FEMA’s establishment of the Flood Insurance Advocate is long overdue and desperately needed by National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policyholders,” said Smith. “It’s why we passed legislation specifically calling for a FEMA Advocate. Regrettably, in assisting my constituents with NFIP casework, it is clear that the program has not met the minimum standards for treating policyholders—i.e. Sandy victims—in a fair, equitable, and timely manner.”
“As FEMA begins the process of finalizing and implementing preliminary flood maps in New Jersey, an effective, independent advocate within FEMA is critical,” continued Smith. “The flood maps can have a huge financial impact on homeowners and their communities, who deserve a fair and transparent appeals process and an explanation of all mitigation options.”
“As a cosponsor of the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act (PL 113-89), I view this as a step in the right direction. That said, the office will need to hit the ground running, and I will be working together with them to ensure that quality assistance is provided to homeowners, policyholders, and impacted communities.”
Throughout the 113th Congress, Smith has supported measures offering relief and assistance to those facing flood insurance premium hikes. In addition to H.R. 3370, he cosponsored H.R. 1485, Congressman Frank LoBiondo’s (NJ-02) bill that would phase in rate increases over an eight-year period, and supported Congressman Bill Cassidy’s (LA-06) amendment delaying rate premium hikes by at least a year.
In his remarks during the debate of the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, Smith noted that the legislation would “provide individualized assistance by establishing a flood insurance advocate to help homeowners and towns obtain information and fair treatment during the mapping process. After hearing from hundreds of families, particularly in Monmouth and Ocean Counties, who are simply looking for information on how they will be impacted by changes to the flood mapping process, I am pleased that this important provision was retained in the final bill.”
Smith took a lead role in obtaining federal disaster relief funding for Superstorm Sandy victims in 2013. He successfully pushed for a 90 percent FEMA reimbursement rate for shore communities decimated by Sandy and facing extraordinary and unprecedented clean-up and disposal costs, up from the normal 75 percent federal reimbursement. He also wrote a bill that overwhelming passed in the House in 2013, H.R. 592, called the "Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act of 2013.”