Chinese Drywall Victims Need FEMA Help, Senators Say

The Chinese drywall crisis has prompted a group of U.S. Senators to call on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help homeowners. The group wants FEMA to provide rental assistance to people who have had to leave their homes because of tainted Chinese drywall.

According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), it has received about 1,501 reports from residents in 27 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico who believe their health symptoms or the corrosion of metal components in their homes are related to the presence of Chinese drywall. Many homes with Chinese drywall are unlivable, and some homeowners have been driven to the point of bankruptcy.

In a letter sent yesterday, U.S Senators Bill Nelson, D-Fl., Mary Landrieu, D-La., Mark Warner, D-Va., and Jim Webb, D-Va. asked FEMA Craig Fugate administrator for help on behalf of Chinese drywall victims. “Families in our states are … watching their dream homes turn into nightmares,” the Senators wrote. “We believe it is important to marshal all appropriate Federal resources that may assist these families.”

The letter asks “Whether FEMA — following a written request from a governor who has declared a disaster or emergency — may offer rental assistance, if homes, businesses or a combination of the two, have sustained uninsured losses.”

FEMA generally provides such assistance following natural disasters, such as hurricanes and floods. But the Senators’ letter cites two instances where the agency did provide such help in non-natural disasters:

* 1980: Relocation of families in Niagara Falls, N.Y., affected by The Love Canal toxic waste dump after an emergency declaration. This incident created the EPA’s federal Superfund.

* 1983: Relocation of families in Times Beach, Mo., due to dioxin contamination. Funds were transferred from the Superfund to FEMA to help the residents.

The Senators represent the three states hardest hit by the Chinese drywall crisis. According to the CPSC, it has received 1,103 complaints from Florida homeowners, 249 from Louisiana and 51 from Virginia. Some experts have estimated that as many as 100,000 homes in the U.S. may have been built with the defective wallboard

The Senators’ letter asks that FEMA respond to their request by November 7.

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