- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 25, 2018

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut’s Democratic U.S. senators announced Wednesday they’ve introduced federal legislation to help state homeowners with concrete foundations crumbling from the presence of an iron sulfide.

One bill would provide $100 million in federal funding over five years for states like Connecticut that have created pools of money to help homeowners pay for repairs to their damaged residential structures. A second proposal would create a similar grant program through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy previously sought financial assistance from FEMA for the homeowners but was told the issue didn’t constitute an emergency or major disaster.

“We simply can’t wait for them to recognize their responsibilities,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, referring to FEMA. “The governor was right to request (assistance). We’re going to change the law to force them.”

An estimated 30,000 or more homes and condominiums built in eastern and central Connecticut from the mid-1980s to 2016 could have failing foundations because of the presence of pyrrhotite. It reacts naturally with oxygen and water, causing concrete to crack and crumble over the decades, making some homes unsellable and unlivable. In many cases, homeowners have been unable obtain insurance. It can cost as much as $200,000 to replace a foundation.

The problem also has been discovered in Massachusetts, in communities near the Connecticut border.

Hundreds of central and eastern Connecticut homeowners have received reimbursements from the state to test for the presence of pyrrhotite. Also, a new insurance company created by the General Assembly, funded with $100 million in state bonds over the next five years, is beginning to take shape and will begin providing financial assistance to the neediest cases.

But state and local officials have agreed that won’t be enough money. They’ve been debating how best to generate more revenue to help the homeowners. There’s some support in the General Assembly this session for a $10 surcharge on Connecticut homeowner policies to help raise more money. The session adjourns on May 9.

The Connecticut Coalition Against Crumbling Basements, a group of affected homeowners, warned its members “not to get our hopes too high” about the legislative proposals by Blumenthal and Sen. Chris Murphy.

“It’s ALL about follow through, follow through, follow through!!!” the group wrote on its Facebook page on Wednesday.

Murphy acknowledged it will be an uphill fight to secure the federal funds, but promised not to “leave any rock unturned.” Murphy said he secured a commitment from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson to work with him to help the Connecticut homeowners. Murphy also invited Carson to visit the state so he can meet with the affected homeowners and see the damage firsthand.

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