Secretary Ben Carson, you’ve now seen the fractured, bowing walls of Maggie and Vince Perracchio’s home in Willington. It’s hard to believe — isn’t it? — that their house is only 30 years old. The foundation looks like it was built centuries ago.
Thank you for coming to Connecticut on Monday to view this damage firsthand. Thank you, too, for your empathy: “I can’t imagine what it’s like for the homeowners to see something like this happening to the home that your children grew up in.”
There are hundreds and possibly thousands of families like the Perracchios living this nightmare right now in Connecticut. Homes in Massachusetts are starting to show cracks in their foundations too. No damage of this kind has been seen on this scale in this country before.
How You Can Help
Now that you’ve seen it up close, could you use your influence, as head of Housing and Urban Development, to make President Trump, other federal agencies and Congress understand the crisis that is facing this state?
You clearly feel the pain that homeowners here are suffering: “My heart goes out to all the people who’ve been so severely affected by this, obviously through no fault of their own,” you said Monday.
You asked great questions about this complex problem, caused by a mineral called pyrrhotite, which makes concrete expand and eventually crumble. The local quarry that was rich in pyrrhotite — unbeknownst to homeowners until it was too late — no longer supplies material for home construction. But surely the federal government needs to set pyrrhotite restrictions for all construction.
We hope that you saw how abandoned homeowners here are feeling. Connecticut’s crumbling concrete problem is one that no one wants to own — including insurance companies. They’ve been happy to take homeowners’ money for years, but are now refusing to cover this damage. That is, says U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, “tantamount to fraud.”
Can you persuade insurance companies to do the right thing?
As you learned, the only fix for an affected home is a new foundation. The Perracchios say that would cost them $215,000 — more than they paid for their home in 1991. Many homeowners just can’t afford this on their own.
Talk To FEMA?
This is why Connecticut leaders begged you for help as they stood in the Perracchios’ cracking garage on Monday. They included U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal — and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, whose hometowns of Vernon and Tolland are among the hardest hit in Connecticut.
Can you persuade the Federal Emergency Management Agency to declare the three dozen affected towns a disaster zone? Or throw your support behind Sen. Blumenthal’s bill compelling FEMA to do that? That would free up some financial support for homeowners, though it won’t solve the entire problem.
FEMA has so far been deaf to Connecticut’s pleas. It might listen to you.
Can you also back the bills by Sens. Blumenthal and Murphy making $200 million available for repairs, half of that from HUD?
Just so you know, Connecticut’s state legislators are doing everything they can to help. They’ve taken a lot of guff from not-my-problem constituents for tacking a modest $12 surcharge on to insurance policies to raise money for affected homeowners.
The IRS is also doing its part by allowing homeowners to deduct the cost of repairs from their federal taxes.
But this is too great a crisis for Connecticut to handle alone.
You get that. “As compassionate individuals, we all should care about our neighbors,” you said Monday.
You didn’t promise your agency would do all the caring and sharing, however. “Everybody thinks that HUD has big buckets of money,” you joked.
But you gave Connecticut hope when you said that everyone should pitch in, “working together with the other federal agencies, with Congress, with the state, with the local officials as well as the private sector.”
Our hopes soared when you said that “we are fully committed to working with the other entities to see this resolved.”
Now that you’ve seen the calamity that has hit Connecticut, you must agree that you and other federal officials have a responsibility here.
Now that you know the extent of it, you know the only solution is for government to step in and help where private citizens cannot.