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Homeowners with crumbling foundations look to state aid after FEMA denial

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HARTFORD - The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, rejected Governor Dannel Malloy's request to assess the extent and impact of homeowners' crumbling foundations. It's the latest setback for homeowners dealing with an expensive, worsening problem with no solution.

"I don't know how they're going to stop this ball from going to the bottom of the hill if they don't come in with some sort of assistance for homeowners," said Jim Williams of Tolland, who learned his home had the issue this past spring.

FEMA rejected the request in a letter sent to Malloy on November 8. Malloy called on FEMA to help thousands of Connecticut homeowners with foundations at risk of crumbling, or even collapsing, saying the crumbling foundations should be considered a natural disaster.

"It appears that the pyrrhotite was present in the stone aggregate in the concrete which was used in these foundation," said FEMA administrator W. Craig Fugate in the letter. "While the mineral and chemical reactions may be naturally occurring, the mixing of concrete and the placing of these foundations are manmade events and do not constitute a natural catastrophe..."

Fugate said that while FEMA can't provide disaster relief, he would make a senior liaison to help the state get assistance from other federal sources.

"Hopefully we can find some other federal opportunities to tap into, but I also think that it forces our hand at the state that we really need to dive into this because FEMA isn't going to be able to help us," said State Rep. Kelly Luxenberg.

Luxenberg, a Democrat from Manchester, had been looking into options on the state level for these homeowners even before learning she and her husband own two properties with crumbling foundations themselves. She says she hopes to get lawmakers from both sides of the aisle together in the next few weeks to discuss this growing problem.

"See if we could potentially find these dollars for the homeowners who are affected because the reality is people need help and they need help now," said Luxenberg.

She said, "There's no precedent. The only place we can look to is Quebec. I know that there's a similar situation in Ireland, but there's been nothing here in the United States to point to and see how they did it. So we are kind of feeling our way through the dark."

A state Department of Consumer Protection investigation into these issues is ongoing. A final report is expected by the end of the year.

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