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Congressman Joe Courtney

Representing the 2nd District of Connecticut

Engagement with Additional Federal Agencies

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

My office receives questions frequently about whether a FEMA disaster declaration is feasible for the crumbling foundations crisis, and whether FEMA could provide assistance to homeowners. Under the Stafford Act (which sets up the procedure for disaster declarations, and which only a governor can trigger), former Governor Malloy has twice submitted requests for a preliminary disaster determination for crumbling foundations and has been denied on the grounds that crumbling foundations do not fit within the definition of natural disaster, terrorist event, or explosion. This issue, however, is still being actively investigated by the Army Corps of Engineers, and there was a briefing held on October 19th, 2019 at the state armory that provided an update regarding their scientific analysis of pyrrhotite. There was no change in FEMA designation reported at that briefing, but the FEMA disaster option is still being investigated, and the attention from the Army Corps demonstrates that federal stakeholders from a number of agencies are taking this issue seriously. I was at this briefing, along with my staff, and we are closely following the state’s efforts on this front.

It is important to note that Connecticut recently learned that homeowners, businesses, and non-profit organizations in Hartford, New Haven, Fairfield, Litchfield, and Middlesex counties who were affected by storms and tornadoes last May are eligible for low-interest Small Business Administration (SBA) loans for property reconstruction. An article published by the Hartford Courant on this issue is available here. Importantly, these counties were denied a FEMA disaster declaration twice, despite the magnitude of damage from the storms. The only assistance they were able to receive was in the form of loans, and was through the SBA, not FEMA.

Department of Housing and Urban Development

In August 2016, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) confirmed to me that the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program as well as the HOME Investment Partnerships program could be used for testing and remediation of homes with crumbling foundations. Connecticut already receives funding through this program annually to support housing initiatives across the state, and some of the funding could be targeted to support our region's response. While the State of Connecticut is using a small portion of its federal CDBG funding for crumbling foundations response, I continue to believe that more can be done to better utilize the funding and authority available to the state under federal law. To this end, I wrote several letters to the Connecticut Department of Housing, raising concerns that the Connecticut Department of Housing has used only $250,000 out of the $1 million in CDBG funding that the state set aside for crumbling foundations. In response to my concerns, the agency re-opened the CDBG crumbling foundation application process, allowing the towns of Vernon, Stafford, and Ellington to now pursue additional funding for CDBG crumbling foundations testing reimbursement. I am continuing to work with towns to make sure that they can take advantage of every funding opportunity, and have met with HUD Regional Administrator David Tille, HUD Secretary Ben Carson, and have attended hearings on efforts to secure CDBG funding through HUD. Also, by working with HUD, I verified that HUD Section 108 funding is another possible funding source to assist homeowners with crumbling foundations.

More on Engagement with Additional Federal Agencies

March 19, 2019 Press Release

NORWICH, CT – Congressman Joe Courtney announced the approval of $480,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant funds to support testing of crumbling foundations in Ellington, Stafford, and Vernon. The funding was requested by the three towns in a joint application last year as part of Connecticut’s Small Cities Program run by the state Department of Housing, which distributes the state’s portion of federal CDBG funds it receives annually.

October 16, 2018 Press Release
“Today, the federal government has once again said ‘yes’ to helping homeowners struggling with the cost and damage of crumbling foundations. This clarification of the tax revenue procedure that we announced last year is going to have significant implications for middle-class homeowners whose repair costs exceed their annual income,” said Courtney and Larson. “It also builds on the critical development we announced last year that the IRS would allow homeowners to claim a casualty loss on their 2017 return to recoup the costs of repairing a home foundation.
September 12, 2018 Press Release
“This clarification of the tax revenue procedure announced last year will have a major impact for homeowners whose repair costs exceed their annual income,” said Courtney and Larson. “We are grateful to have the support of the Connecticut Society of Certified Public Accountants and their Executive Director, Bonnie Stewart, in this critical matter for homeowners in northcentral and northeastern Connecticut."
February 7, 2018 Press Release
“This is welcome news for homeowners in our districts,” the members said. “The additional three years afforded under this updated policy provides critical time for more homeowners impacted by crumbling foundations to make repairs and secure federal tax relief. Since enactment of the new tax law, we have been in regular contact with officials from the Treasury and IRS to explore ways to extend as much relief as possible to homeowners in spite of the changes made by the law. We are grateful for their attention to our concerns and the support they have provided today to homeowners struggling with the damage caused by crumbling foundations.”
September 11, 2017 Press Release
Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02) and Congressman John B. Larson (CT-01) met with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy David Kautter at the Department of the Treasury headquarters in Washington, D.C. to discuss assistance for north-central Connecticut residents impacted by crumbling concrete foundation.
May 24, 2017 Press Release
We are encouraged that the National Taxpayer Advocate has committed to working with our offices and the IRS to secure relief for Connecticut homeowners impacted by crumbling foundations through the tax code. We still have a lot of work to do, but having a key federal official publicly acknowledge the merits of casualty loss tax assistance for local homeowners is an encouraging development. Our offices remain committed to investigating every possible source of federal assistance that could be used to homeowners with crumbling foundations.