Wednesday, 06 October 2010 22:27
FLAGSTAFF, AZ -- Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick announced today that she has introduced legislation that would help many of the homeowners near Flagstaff who had their homes damaged as a result of the Schultz Fire Flood. The bill would ensure that victims who opened flood insurance policies prior to the first major flood would be able to file claims to recover their losses. It would also change current law to provide officials with the flexibility in the future to waive waiting periods for coverage.
As a result of the Schultz Fire, several of the peaks rising above Flagstaff can no longer absorb large amounts of water, allowing water and mud to flow into the surrounding communities. Massive flooding has devastated these areas, impacting thousands. Unfortunately, because of a loophole in the law, residents who followed the advice of officials and purchased federal flood insurance immediately following the fire were not covered due to a mandatory 30-day waiting period before a newly purchased policy can begin. Therefore, although these homeowners did the right thing by getting insurance, they currently have little recourse.
"Following the Schultz Fire, many Coconino County residents did the responsible thing for their families and quickly bought flood insurance, and they are being denied that protection," said Rep. Kirkpatrick. "I am not going to let a technicality prevent thousands of homeowners from rebuilding--particularly at a time when many Arizonans are out of work and many don't have the money to pay for repairs. This law is unreasonable, and we need to fix it."
The bill introduced by Rep. Kirkpatrick would retroactively provide a waiver of the 30-day waiting period for any area resident who purchased a flood insurance policy between June 20--the beginning of the Schultz Fire--and before the first major flooding incident on July 20. This would allow flood victims who bought policies during that period of time to file claims on damages. Additionally, the bill would give the Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) the authority to issue such a waiver on a case-by-case basis in the future to ensure that no more families fall into this trap.
"Coconino County would like to thank Congresswoman Kirkpatrick for introducing this important legislation to provide a retroactive waiver of the 30-day waiting period for flood insurance for individuals in the Schultz fire flood area," said Chair of the Coconino County Board of Supervisors Mandy Metzger. "This legislation provides equity to the property owners who purchased flood insurance, but did not exhaust the 30-day waiting period due to the unfortunate timing of the emergency."
"Following the first flood emergency, Coconino County immediately requested a waiver from the Federal Emergency Management Agency of the 30-day flood insurance provision, but received a denial letter due to the federal statutes," said District 2 Supervisor Liz Archuleta. "This legislation introduced by Congresswoman Kirkpatrick provides the necessary statute change and much-needed relief for property owners who purchased flood insurance."
With this bill, area residents who purchased flood insurance would be able to file claims for damages to their property. This would be a critical step toward rebuilding a community that has had millions of dollars in damage and will sit in a floodplain until the forest is rehabilitated, possibly as long as five years. While the major disaster declaration issued by the president yesterday will help the city and county governments with the costs of handling the flooding, flood insurance is the only option for individual homeowners.
"Although I am glad that the administration has issued a major disaster declaration, Congress must immediately act on this bill when it returns to work in November," said Rep. Kirkpatrick. "Each day that passes is a day longer that flood victims must deal with the consequences of the disaster without getting the help they need to move on with their lives. Many people are still wondering how they will ever rebuild."
Unlike other types of insurance, which are issued by private companies, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is a public program overseen by FEMA. As Arizona's only member of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Kirkpatrick has oversight of that agency and has been working with local, state and federal officials and to reform the NFIP and bring relief for the residents of Coconino County.