FEMA Denies Aid for Florida Families with Chinese Drywall Damage

March 17, 2010

Last week Florida asked for federal financial assistance for thousands of homeowners with property damage caused by defective Chinese drywall.

But the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which typically deals with hurricanes and other natural disasters, isn’t going along.

The state says it has identified 2,505 homes that have had their appraisal values downgraded due to damage from tainted Chinese drywall and another 86 claims are pending. Hardest hit is Lee County, with more than 1,100 cases.

In addition, state public health officials have identified 530 homes that have been subject to metal corrosion due to the drywall.

In a May 10 letter to FEMA, David Halstead, interim director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, asked FEMA for financial aid for the homeowners. Halstead said that Gov. Charlie Crist directed him to request the FEMA financial aid for the families.

“These homeowners have suffered greatly and have no means by which to repair their home,” Halstead wrote. He said many have been forced to move from their homes due to health risks and noxious fumes.

But two days later, FEMA’s regional office wrote back that the situation does not constitute an emergency or disaster that would qualify for federal relief.

The FEMA letter encourages the state to continue working with the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission officials and to encourage homeowners and municipalities to avail themselves of remedies announced by HUD in December 2009.

Florida attorney Mike Ryan, a partner at Krupnick Campbell Malone Buser Slama Hancock Liberman & McKee, who represents homeowners, blasted the FEMA response.

“FEMA just doesn’t get it. This is not purely a consumer product safety issue. This is a man-made disaster that has wrecked homes and communities. There is simply no prohibition under the FEMA empowering law against helping homeowners and communities during a man-made disaster.”

Homeowners insurance does not cover damage from Chinese drywall and the manufacturers and installers have denied liability.

Ryan said there are no available resources at CPSC or HUD to help homeowners. “That suggestion alone proves FEMA has no idea what these homeowners and businesses are going through or what resources are available,” the attorney said.

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