Congressional reps of Sandy-hit areas are looking to reform a law that prohibits FEMA from providing emergency relief to owners of condos and c0-ops. The New York Times is reporting that federal lawmakers are forging a bipartisan effort to bring help to condo and co-op owners swamped with bills as a result of Superstorm Sandy.
In June , we reported that Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein introduced a resolution that called on Congress to change the law which bars FEMA from helping condo and co-op owners. Weinstein explained how the law in question, known as the StaffordAct, operates:
While nothing prohibits these co-ops from applying for aid, the Stafford Act, a Federal law last amended in 1988, considers co-op boards not-for-profit businesses. Therefore, aid cannot be applied to common spaces – like garages and laundry rooms – nor can it be applied to the walls and floors in apartments, because, according to bylaws, these spaces belong to and are the Coop’s responsibility.
Weinstein’s resolution to urge Congress in this matter passed unanimously in the New York State Assembly. Perhaps as a result of Weinstein’s call to attention, members of Congress are now pushing to change the Stafford Act, calling it discriminatory against condo and co-op owners.
The Times further described what the problems facing condo and c0-op owners and what the passage of the bill would change:
Co-ops were most affected because of their unique form of ownership, in which tenants own shares in a building. While condo owners can get federal assistance to fix walls and floors in their individual units, owners of co-ops cannot, because their apartments’ walls and floors are usually the legal responsibility of the building.
The bill would make condos and residential cooperatives eligible for FEMA assistance by adding them to the Stafford Act. The bill would remove the $30,000 cap in aid for co-op and condo associations but does not impose a new one, stating that it would need “to be determined by the rule-making process.”
Backers of the proposed legislation include Democrat Steve Israel and Republican Peter King. Israel acknowledged that while changing the rule will be difficult, it is the fair thing to do.
“We have a lot of educating to do,” Israel told the Times. “There will be many members of Congress that would say, ‘I don’t have co-ops in my district; why should I support this?’ My response would be, I don’t have tornadoes, but I support your assistance.”