Congressman Brian Higgins, Lackawanna Mayor Geoff Szymanski and Annette Iafallo are teaming up to fight for the removal of Lackawanna homes from the flood zone, a designation that mandates homeowners carry flood insurance at a cost of hundreds of dollars a year.
“The flawed FEMA flood map program continues to force local residents to pay into a system that they will never benefit from,” said Higgins. “Through research and community support we will continue to build our case and fight this designation that hinders small business growth, negatively impacts property values and is driving up our national debt.”
Annette Iafallo added, "For far too long many Lackawanna residents, especially those in our Second Ward, have been forced to pay unnecessary flood insurance. Our residents are mostly middle class and work hard to make ends meet and they shouldn't be burdened any longer by this unnecessary expense. I will work tirelessly with Congressman Higgins, Mayor Szymanski and other local leaders to any extent necessary to correct this problem."
Iafallo is a resident of Lackawanna’s Second Ward and works as a Board Clerk with the Lackawanna City School District. She previously served on the Lackawanna School Board and the Lackawanna Community Development Corporation board. She recently collected signatures from nearly 500 residents also supportive of efforts to remove Lackawanna homes from designated flood zones and shared them with Congressman Higgins.
"Every year, when the winter snow melts and there are high creek warnings throughout Western New York, Smokes Creek is never on the watch list because it is never in danger of overflowing," Szymanski declares, "and yet we are burdened with this unfair insurance policy that covers nothing but the banks property. If our homeowners didn't have to pay this unfair burden, imagine what our neighborhood would look like if they had this extra cash to reinvest in their homes appearance."
Mayor Szymanski and Congressman Higgins have a long history of contesting flood maps in Western New York which mandate homeowners acquire expensive flood insurance. In Lackawanna Higgins fought for dredging of Smokes Creek to alleviate risk factors calculated into flood zone designations.
Szymanski added, "Since being sworn in as Mayor of Lackawanna just ten months ago, I called for two informational meetings concerning the FEMA Flood Insurance with the Army Corp. of Engineers, DEC, and other engineering firms to gather as much information as possible to help us with this problem and Congressman Higgins' staff has attended both meetings, and for that I am truly thankful."
Of the 34 billion which has been paid into the National Flood Insurance Program over the past thirty years, $15 billion has gone to Louisiana, despite the fact that Louisiana has paid less than $3 billion into the program. Over the same time period, homeowners and businesses in Congressman Higgins’ district in Erie County, New York have paid $35 million into the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and received only $8 million back.
The U.S. Congress established the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) with the passage of the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968. The program is administered by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Congressman Higgins sent a letter to FEMA calling on the agency to revise the map and reduce the number of residents required to participate in the National Flood Insurance Program.