April 25, 2018

CT's U.S. senators push crumbling-foundation aid

HBJ PHOTO | Bill Morgan
HBJ PHOTO | Bill Morgan
South Windsor homeowner Kristen Cole is one of hundreds who have problems with cracked foundations they claim was due to tainted cement from a defunct supplier. But Cole is one of the first to press the court for damages against the real estate broker involved in her home purchase.

Connecticut's two U.S. senators say they have introduced federal legislation to aid homeowners and small-business owners in this and other states with fixing their crumbling foundations.

Christopher Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, both Democrats, said they co-sponsored two bills introduced Wednesday on Capitol Hill meant primarily to provide financial relief via the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to dozens of eligible central and eastern Connecticut homeowners plagued with concrete foundations compromised by cement laced with the mineral pyrrhotite.

Connecticut lawmakers recently authorized bonding of up to $100 million over five years to fund foundation repairs that can run into six figures.

The senators, in a joint statement, said their Aid to Homeowners with Crumbling Foundations Act would provide $100 million over five years from HUD to Connecticut and other states that have created nonprofit crumbling foundations assistance funds to repair damage to residential structures due pyrrhotite.

Their other measure, the Crumbling Foundations Small Business and Homeowners Assistance Act, would create a similar grant program through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Murphy said that last week he procured a commitment from HUD Secretary Ben Carson to work with him to help Connecticut homeowners dealing with crumbling foundations. Murphy also invited Carson to visit Connecticut to hear firsthand from homeowners and to see the damage in-person.
"I've visited the homes of families in Connecticut dealing with crumbling foundations, and the devastation is stunning,'' Murphy said.

Blumenthal and Murphy teamed earlier this year with Connecticut Congressman Joe Courtney and John Larson, to beat back an attempt under recent federal tax reform to prevent taxpayers with crumbling foundations from claiming deductions for repairs and other financial relief on their federal income-tax returns.

The quartet succeeded in getting the Internal Revenue Service to issue a written declaration authorizing such deductions through 2020.

Blumenthal and Murphy also say they have persuaded their peers on the Appropriations Committee to urge the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to establish regulations for acceptable levels of pyrrhotite in building materials.

The provision, they said, also would direct NIST to provide assistance to homeowners who are interested in detection, prevention, and mitigation of the pyrrhotite mineral.

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