Outrage Over Proposal to Fund Border Wall with Flood Insurance Surcharges

By Briana Vannozzi

“I lost my home, I lost my business and I lost my second job to Superstorm Sandy. So, lady luck really hated me that day,” said Joseph Mangino, Superstorm Sandy victim and New Jersey Organizing Project organizer.

Mangino recounts his four and a half year battle to get his wife and two kids back in their Beach Haven West home. Superstorm Sandy left it gutted. But it was nothing compared to the storm they encountered after.

“It was a struggle to find the resources we needed to rebuild and when we did, nothing was easy. Everything was lost paperwork or denied,” Mangino said.

Now he and other Sandy survivors are incensed over a proposal from the Trump administration to fund the construction of a Mexico border wall with the help of surcharges on flood insurance policies, including more than 230,000 in New Jersey.

“In addition to hiking flood insurance premiums, the administration also has included billions of dollars in cuts to the Coast Guard,” said Sen. Bob Menendez.

Cuts to the TSA, which oversees airport security, and disaster recovery money for local communities are also being floated.

“President Trump promised Mexico would pay, not Superstorm Sandy victims,” said Congressman Bill Pascrell.

Menendez today laid out a series of reforms for the National Flood Insurance Program. Among them he plans to make policy rates more affordable, repeal surcharges on homeowners, revamp the often lengthy and refuted appeals process, eliminate spending on outside lawyers, crack down on contractor fraud and abuse, re-shift the program’s debt and bringing fairness to claims.

According to FEMA, with this year’s increase the average policyholder will pay about $870 a year. But after surcharges and fees are tacked on, that bill tops out over $1,000 a year.

Little Ferry Councilwoman Roberta Henriquez was paying almost $3,500 a year when Superstorm Sandy hit. And despite her high premiums, it didn’t get her a whole lot.

“During Hurricane Sandy they only gave me $35,000. They wouldn’t cover my kitchen, they wouldn’t cover my bedroom, they wouldn’t cover a lot of things. I finally got so disgusted fighting with them that I used my personal funds that I saved all my life for,” she said.

President Trump is expected to release a budget plan later this week with more details. Congress has until Sept. 30 to reauthorize the federal flood insurance program.