2007-03-07 / Features

Congress Urged To Extend Terrorism Insurance

BY JOHN TOSCANO

Warning "without terrorism insurance New York economic development will come to a screeching halt", Congressmember Carolyn Maloney, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and others urged support for extending the current law which provides federal backing for the program, which will expire at the end of this year.

Addressing a House Financial Services Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Insurance and Government Sponsored Enterprises at a hearing in City Hall, Maloney declared "We need a new TRIA [Terrorism Risk Insurance Act] bill and we need it promptly. It is not helpful to have short extensions that throw the markets into disarray every year and prevent longterm planning.

"Specifically, we cannot rebuild Lower Manhattan without a bill that lasts at least 16 years, so that the bonds necessary to finance the Freedom Tower can be issued."

TRIA was originally passed after 9/11 and extended for two years in 2005.

Bloomberg noted in his testimony that TRIA was a component of the city's anti-terrorism strategy as well as a major part of protecting the city's economy. "With no foreseeable end to the terrorist threats against our nation, it's imperative that Congress not only renews TRIA, but ensures that it's in place indefinitely," he said.

Congressmember Gary Ackerman (D- Bayside), who conducted the hearing, made the point: "Without terrorism insurance, banks would not lend money and developers will simply not be able to build."

Another lawmaker, Congressmember Nydia M. Velázquez, whose district includes a part of Queens, pointed out TRIA's importance to business and government and the real estate and insurance industries.

As chairperson of the Small Business Committee, she stressed the importance of terrorism insurance, especially to the thousands of small businesses in the city, and their importance to the city's economy.

Velázquez noted: "Small businesses have different needs than the large corporations. We need to press the [President George W. Bush] administration and states to take small businesses into account as they implement TRIA."

Bloomberg also stressed that TRIA must "eliminate its distinction between international and domestic terrorism". As long as TRIA excludes acts of domestic terrorism, the mayor said, "every business and commercial enterprise continues to be at risk of suffering catastrophic financial losses".

To make TRIA more comprehensive, it must be made to cover terrorist acts committed with "a potentially more destructive chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear attack," Bloomberg added. Presently, he said, TRIA currently offers protection against attacks using conventional explosives and airplanes.

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