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Bill Aims To Help Conn. Homeowners With Storm Damage Costs

The part of the street where Ridge Road meets Lexington Avenue in Danbury was closed after a telephone pole snapped and took down power lines.
Frankie Graziano
Connecticut Public Radio
The part of the street where Ridge Road meets Lexington Avenue in Danbury was closed after a telephone pole snapped and took down power lines.

One year after tornadoes ripped through Connecticut, many residents are still struggling with post-storm cleanup. In response, federal lawmakers announced Monday that they’re reintroducing what they call the DEBRIS Act (Diversifying Emergency Benchmarks for the Recovery of Individuals after Storms). 

Connecticut did receive federal disaster aid to cover public expenses following the storms that swept through the state last year, but individual homeowners aren’t allowed to apply for federal dollars for debris removal. The supercell thunderstorms and tornadoes destroyed hundreds of homes, and uprooted thousands of trees. Hamden was among the towns especially hard-hit. 

Hamden resident Adele Volpe said she still isn’t back in the home that she’s owned since 1963.

“I'm very happy with my insurance company, except for this landscaping stuff,” she told U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal. “This neighborhood will take a long time before it gets back to the way it was.”

But Blumenthal and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro said that while private homeowners have not been eligable for FEMA assistance for debris and tree removal, they could be covered under the DEBRIS Act.

Blumenthal said many homeowners were left with tens of thousands of dollars worth of cleanup and tree removal after their claims were denied by FEMA. This bill, he said, would guarantee that homeowners have removal costs covered.

If the act passes , Blumenthal said  people will be able to "sleep at night, knowing that their homeowner insurance may not cover it, but the federal government will, whether it’s branches, gutters, shutters, bushes — all the stuff that happens during these kinds of superstorms that right now the federal government fails to cover."

The legislation is being reintroduced after it was denied last year by the Republican-run house. Now, said Blumenthal, “the politics have changed. After the last election we have a different party in charge. It should be nonpolitical, but the fact is, the change of leadership in the house changes everything.”

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro said if the measure passes it would not only provide necessary support moving forward, but it would also be retroactive to last May, so that “previously affected homeowners, like those impacted last year, could reapply for this assistance.”

DeLauro said she couldn't make any guarantees, but they’re hoping to advance the DEBRIS Act by putting it into the 2020 Department of Homeland Security Bill.