Friday, July 16, 2010

Flood Insurance Advocate

from the inbox:

IN THE AFTERMATH OF A FLOOD, victims should be able to focus on rebuilding their lives and not be left to navigate the complex national flood insurance program on their own. Yet those living along the Delaware River can attest to the fact that this is too often the case.

Today, Pennsylvania Congressman Patrick Murphy (D-8th District) passed legislation to help flood victims by establishing a Flood Insurance Advocate to assist homeowners and businesses in resolving problems with FEMA related to the flood insurance program. The advocate office will work on behalf of the flood victims to guide them through the bureaucracy of FEMA and their flood insurance companies. The head of the service reports to Congress about the problems facing the Flood Insurance Program and determines the most effective way to create a nationwide office. All advocates are required to have a background in both customer service and flood insurance, and they would have the authority and access necessary to assist those struggling with flood insurance claims.

“After fighting through three major floods in the past several years, many of my constituents hit a wall of bureaucracy as they tried to get their homes repaired and their lives back on track,” said Murphy. “Today, we’re working to change that. The Flood Insurance Advocate will work for flood victims and against Washington red tape.”

Murphy added that his office currently requires a staff member dedicated almost solely to serving as an advocate for flood victims, helping explain the complicated process of obtaining flood insurance, filing claims or helping with the home elevation process.

After the major flooding that has hit the area in recent years, property owners along the Delaware River in Bucks County have found themselves in situations where they need an advocate on their behalf.

§ Nancy Rees from Yardley, Pennsylvania had a problem with her flood insurance that would have left her paying $10,000 more per year in premium payments. Only through countless hours of working with Congressman Murphy’s office was she able to correct the mistake. Without that help she would have been forced to drop all flood insurance and the system would have failed her completely.

§ In trying to comply with FEMA’s regulations, Tony Plescha, owner of Charcoal Steaks n’ Things in Yardley, demolished his restaurant, intending to use grant money to rebuild. Unfortunately, he encountered difficulties with local ordinances that delayed construction for over a year.

§ Without a section of the National Flood Insurance Plan (NFIP) dedicated to showing policy holders how to navigate this complicated system, individuals are left to fend for themselves and often pay a very high price in the process. Unfortunately, in our community, these stories are commonplace.

The National Flood Insurance Advocate passed as part of the Flood Insurance Reform Priorities Act of 2010 (HR 5114), which reauthorizes the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for five years and is intended to address and highlight those reforms deemed most essential for the immediate and near-term fiscal and administrative health of the NFIP. The National Flood Insurance Program is the primary source of reliable, affordable flood insurance coverage for millions of American homes and businesses.

The National Flood Insurance Advocate

§ The National Flood Insurance Advocate would be created upon passage of the Flood Insurance Reform Priorities Act of 2010 (HR 5114) and would operate inside FEMA. The person would be appointed by and report directly to the Director of FEMA and must have a background in customer service and insurance.

§ At the end of each year, the National Flood Insurance Advocate must submit a report to Congress documenting areas in which individuals are having trouble with FEMA and the flood insurance program, and what the agency is doing to improve services.

o The report would also provide recommendations for administrative and legislative action that could help resolve problems encountered by insureds.

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