Bill could give co-ops, condos access to FEMA aid

July 29, 2013 01:30PM

Owners of co-ops and condominiums may soon see a change to a Federal Emergency Management Agency policy that they say discriminates against them, thanks to a bill to be introduced in U.S. Congress this week by a group of New York and New Jersey legislators, the New York Times reported.

The issue has come to the fore following Hurricane Sandy, since owners of such properties are currently considered business entities and therefore ineligible for federal aid that can reach up to $30,000 for a single-family home.

As a result, much of New York City, with its high concentration of co-ops and condos, has not been able to obtain grants for damage to lobbies, roofs or other common areas.

FEMA officials have responded saying they are sympathetic but bound by a federal disaster law known as the Stafford Act. And while they can’t change the law, they say, Congress can.

The bill would add condos and residential co-ops to the Stafford Act, thus making them eligible for FEMA assistance. The bill would also remove a $30,000 cap in aid for co-op and condo associations and not impose a new one, saying that it would need “to be determined” by the rule-making process.

But the legislation, which counts Rep. Peter King, R.-N.Y., as a co-sponsor, may have a rocky road to passage.

“There will be many members of Congress that would say, ‘I don’t have co-ops in my district; why should I support this?’” Rep. Steve Israel, D.-N.Y., told the Times. “My response would be, I don’t have tornadoes, but I support your assistance.” [NYT]Julie Strickland