Chinese Drywall: Federal Disaster Assistance?

U.S. Senators are pushing for more help for homeowners and businesses affected by tainted drywall imported from China. In a letter to President Obama citing the many federal programs that could assist affected homeowners, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Florida Senator Bill Nelson has asked the president for a one-stop federal drywall assistance center. Sen. Nelson along with Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Virginia Sens. Jim Webb and Mark Warner have also written to the Small Business Administration, Treasury, and the HUD, to push these agencies for financial assistance and mortgage relief for homeowners who may be facing foreclosure because they are paying for two residences. As of July 2009, the Consumer Product Safety Commission had received more than 600 drywall-related complaints from 21 states and the District of Columbia. It has been suggested that defective drywall releases sulfuric gases that corrode metal, particularly air conditioning components, along with speculation about health risks. Already several class action lawsuits have been filed by homeowners in the southeast U.S. A Barclays Capital report recently noted that insurance coverage under general liability policies will largely depend upon whether pollution exclusions are upheld. Defense costs, which should be covered, could be several hundred million dollars, it noted.

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