An Interview with the Superintendent
Last week Michael Maglaras, Superintendent of CFSIC, granted an interview to journalist Tami Burke. What follows are excerpts from that interview.
TB: Your firm Michael Maglaras & Company has been at this since April 2018. Could you give us an idea of how well you think it’s going?
MM: I think you’d have to ask my board that question, and I hope you will…but I would say, on the whole, the CFSIC project is moving along on schedule. Our schedule is of course always dictated by the schedule of funding, and we eagerly await the next round of funding, because we have so many more families we need to help. But I think that on the whole the project is going well, and we are bringing families the help they need as quickly as we can.
TB: You announced your resignation as Superintendent to take effect at the end of April 2020. What’s happened?
MM: First, we undertook a national search for more than four months, and we had no takers, with the exception of one experienced captive management firm, who had to be disqualified because the service fee they wanted to manage CFSIC would have been well outside CFSIC’s budget. After four months of interviews and no further interest, I indicated to the chairman of my board that I would stay on another year in order to continue our work.
TB: So what’s so tough about the Superintendent’s job?
MM: On its face, actually very little is difficult. We’ve consulted with and managed scores of captives over the past 34 years, and we continue to do so…CFSIC is not the only assignment Michael Maglaras & Company has. I won’t go into a lot of detail, but it’s important to note that the Superintendent’s job is deeply political. Most business people do not have much taste for politics, and I am among them. The hardest part of the job is not the funding issue (and to be clear, that issue is very difficult). It’s the politics.
TB: Based on my research, it looks like CFSIC’s next round of funding is going to come through the Healthy Homes surcharge, perhaps at the end of June. Have I got the timing right, and how much do you think you’re going to get?
MM: Based on what we’ve been told, we expect to receive funds at the end of June. These are homeowner insurance policy surcharges that would have been collected during the period April 1, 2019 through April 30, 2020. Based on discussions with key government officials, we are budgeted to receive $8.5 million at the end of June. We certainly hope we get that. If we get $8.5 million, I will immediately countersign Participation Agreements enabling work to begin on sixty more foundation remediations.
TB: Just sixty? That doesn’t sound like very many.
MM: It is to us. Our successes occur at the rate of one family at a time with this crisis. If I put sixty families back in their homes, that’s sixty more families who can resume something like a normal life. At CFSIC we celebrate every time a family is back in a safe and secure home.
TB: I can understand that. But suppose you only get, for example, $5 million. What does that mean to your continuing progress.
MM: Only getting $5 million would be a big disappointment for us…but, to be clear, that’s 33 homes and 33 families. That’s also 33 victories.
TB: I’ve tried to piece together the extent of any construction or contractor problems you’ve encountered since your launch on January 10, 2019. I haven’t uncovered much. What’s the straight scoop?
MM: The straight scoop, and the straight truth, is that we have had to remove one contractor from the program since inception. That contractor would not or could not conform to our Underwriting and Claims Management Guidelines, which are very strict. In addition, I have personally intervened in four disputes between homeowners and contractors, where in each case I mediated the dispute, and in each case the dispute was resolved favorably, with construction proceeding through another contractor and where funds were returned to CFSIC. That is all that I am aware of, but it is of course very important that homeowner claimants contact ESIS and my excellent claims management team the moment that there is an issue or a problem. We can’t help resolve what we don’t know about.
TB: Some Facebook postings clearly reference a higher number of homeowner/contractor disputes. How do you account for this difference?
MM: I can’t. It is a generally accepted principle, acknowledged by many people universally, that if you are seeking the truth about any subject, you won’t find it on Facebook.
TB: What about the next $20 million from the CT Bond Commission? When can you count on that?
MM: I have met with Governor Lamont, and he is a man of his word. I feel confident that CFSIC will be on the CT Bond Commission agenda for our next round of funding before Thanksgiving.
TB: If that’s the case, how long will it take for CFSIC to commit that $20 million to foundation remediation?
MM: Approximately two days. We already have claimants in line for that money, and every penny of it will be committed within two days of our getting it.
TB: So you’re saying that you will spend down the $20 million you get at some point this fall almost immediately. How can that be true?
MM: Because we have claimants in line for Participation Agreements who have been waiting in line since October 2019.
TB: What is CFSIC’s fiscal year end?
MM: June 30.
TB: Will CFSIC undergo an audit by an independent auditor just as it did after June 30, 2019?
MM: That’s correct. Our independent auditor is already working on the 2020 audit. Our audited financial will be posted on the CFSIC website most likely in early October.
TB: CFSIC is not a branch of state government; it’s an independent company under the control of an independent board of directors. Why would you publish CFSIC’s audit for everyone to see?
MM: Because it is the correct thing to do. I’m running an insurance company judged by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service to be a tax-exempt. There’s a long history of tax-exempts making their audited financials available to the public they serve. We hold ourselves to a high standard of prudent financial management. The only way that we can demonstrate that we’ve achieved that standard is to publish our audit.
TB: Everything I’ve read says there is a looming crisis just across the border in Massachusetts. Just how bad is the crisis, and can CFSIC help?
MM: I have seen substantial evidence that the crumbling foundations crisis in Massachusetts is serious. People are suffering. The commercial insurance industry’s response to Massachusetts homeowners has been similar to that in Connecticut. The team we have in place at CFSIC is fully trained and able to manage the remediation process in Massachusetts. CFSIC’s charter as an insurance company could be modified within 90 days to permit Massachusetts to join this effort.
TB: Do you think that’s going to happen?
MM: I don’t know. But I have met with legislators and homeowners in Massachusetts, and they know we are ready to assist them.
TB: Any last thoughts you want to share with me?
MM: It’s very important to celebrate CFSIC’s successes. People now have some hope. People are seeing results. While our efforts are not perfect in every regard and all the time, CFSIC is putting families back together again, and we are restoring communities. I get weekly construction updates. I travel throughout the Northeast Corner observing construction and speaking with families. In our own modest and quiet way, CFSIC is making a difference.
Governor Lamont’s Executive Order No. 7H
We wanted you to know that under Governor Lamont’s Executive Order signed on March 20, regarding restrictions on workplaces for non-essential businesses, CFSIC is in fact considered an essential business.
CFSIC is an insurance company. It is licensed and regulated by the CT Insurance Department. It will continue to operate, as insurance companies are considered to be essential businesses under the Governor’s Executive Order of March 20. All staff involved in CFSIC’s efforts is fully engaged in day-to-day operations. All staff is working remotely, has access to claim files and other information, and is processing construction progress payments, initial deposits, and generally taking care of business, including the intake of pending claim information.
We also want to advise you that it is our belief that the CRCOG-approved contractors able to provide foundation construction services are, based on our reading of the Governor’s Executive Order, also considered essential businesses. Our belief is that they may continue with the work of foundation replacement.
However, the coronavirus pandemic is a life-threatening and life-changing event.
We have communicated with all contractors currently on CRCOG’s list to advise them that, to the extent they want to discontinue any work they are doing because of concerns about worker safety, they should contact homeowners directly with whom they have contracts in place and for whom work is underway.
They then should contact ESIS promptly about their planned suspension of construction activities during the crisis.
The ESIS team, assisted by the Superintendent’s office, will take all necessary steps to transfer construction responsibilities, where possible and applicable, to other contractors continuing to provide services during the crisis.
ESIS can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at (844) 763-1207.
The Superintendent’s office can be reached at 860-487-0000.
Homeowner Claimant Responsibilities During the Crisis
CFSIC’s Board believes that each of us must act responsibly and thoughtfully during this crisis.
This means following the guidance and directives of government officials at all times, remaining at home, practicing hand hygiene, and observing social distancing mandates.
With regard to the work that CFSIC is doing…homeowner claimants have another responsibility:
at this time of crisis, which may shortly become a time of financial crisis, we want to remind homeowners of the critical need to observe and monitor the foundation remediation work being done on their homes…as that work is being done.
Claimants should not only observe the progress of work, but should also ask questions about what they see and, as appropriate, involve town building officials, asking for their advice and guidance about the work being performed, and the timeliness and quality of work undertaken on their homes.
Lastly, and by way of important reminder, CFSIC will not authorize a progress payment to a contractor for foundation work until a homeowner has already paid their share of that progress payment. The homeowner’s share of any progress payment is set forth in the construction contract, which is a material part of the claimant’s Participation Agreement. If you don’t pay…we don’t pay.
Said simply, homeowner claimants should not make work progress installment payments for their share of any installment without understanding exactly what has occurred by way of progress on the project, and being satisfied with it.
If you are dissatisfied with the progress of work, or you have questions or concerns about the work performed, if the contractor is late in showing up for your project, or not responding professionally to your requests for information about the status of your foundation remediation, CFSIC believes that your first source of good information and potential resolution is always the contractor doing the work.
You also have available to you town building officials, who can advise you upon your request.
CSFIC will not authorize a progress payment to a contractor is there is a dispute of any kind between a homeowner and a contractor in the course of a project.
This process depends, however, on your communication with us.
We don’t know what we’re not told. Tell us what’s going on. We are depending upon homeowners to be our eyes and ears in the field.
We are all going to come out of this crisis at some point, and we will tell you normal life will return to us all. When we do, we want dozens of foundations replaced and dozens of families back in their homes without incident.
Further Extension of Pending Claimant Filing Through June 30, 2020
We’re pleased to announce that, after some reconsideration of our current capabilities to handle additional application flow and a re-calculation of the number of actual potential pending claims we have received, we will continue to accept pending claimants through June 30, 2020.
This will give more claimants an opportunity to prepare applications and to post points of evidence in a way that will enable more claimants to enter our system.
Participation Agreement Suspension in Place
We have suspended the issuing of new Participation Agreements, and we will not resume Participation Agreement activity until at some point after July 1, 2020.
If you have not yet been provided with a Participation Agreement by the Superintendent’s office by now, you will not hear anything more about your Participation Agreement until we resume issuing them.
You are still in line. We haven’t lost you. We haven’t forgotten about you. We are all going to find out together and pretty much at the same time when CFSIC will be able to resume Participation Agreement activity. We are at a point within CFSIC where we must conserve our remaining cash until two things happen:
- we identify exactly how much funding CFSIC will receive from the $12 per homeowner policy surcharge; and
- we receive our next $20 million bond allotment from the CT Bond Commission.
Without knowing, with precision, the facts about when we will receive these two sources of funding, and in the case of the $12 homeowner policy surcharge, exactly how much we are getting, we will not be issuing any further Participation Agreements until this website announces further information.
CFSIC Has Resumed Application Activity
CFSIC began taking applications again effective 9:00 AM on January 13. We have re-opened the electronic platform to accept applications for claimants who agree to be placed in “Pending” status, and we have also enabled applications to be sent to the ESIS team by mail or other means.
CFSIC will remain open for the taking of applications through close of business on June 30, 2020.
To be clear, any claimant making claim to CFSIC on or after January 13 will be placed in “Pending” status. This means that your claim will be neither active nor inactive, regardless of the severity class code assigned to your foundation. CFSIC will not place a statutory financial reserve on your Pending claim until and only if we determine that we have sufficient funds to move any or all Pending claims into either inactive or active status.
What follows are some links that will take you to where you need to go:
The following Q&A should help everyone understand what is happening on January 13.
Question: I’ve been waiting for you to reopen your doors. I have a verified severity class coded 3 foundation, and I want to apply as a Type 1 claimant. I’m going to apply right away on January 13. What will happen to my claim?
Answer: You will become a “Pending Claimant” in our system. That means that we are creating a third category of claimant effective January 13, 2020. Right now, CFSIC only permits a claimant to be “active” or “inactive.” On January 13, you will only be able to file as a claimant under the new third status of claimant…a Pending Claimant. This means that we will register your claim and all the data you send us. We will provide you with a claim number, and we will acknowledge your claim…BUT even if you have a verifiable severity code 3 claim, you will not be able to move out of Pending status to either inactive or active status unless and until CFSIC’s sunset date is moved forward beyond June 30, 2022 AND we determine, starting in June of 2020, what the most likely scenario is for the amount of money we will receive from our share of the Healthy Homes surcharge.
Question: Are you saying that, even if I have a completed application and a verified severity class code 3 foundation, you will be unable to make my claim “active” or even “inactive” on or after January 13?
Answer: That’s correct. You will not be able to be an active or inactive claimant until the two things above are determined. You will be a Pending Claimant. You may remain a Pending Claimant for a very long time.
Question: That doesn’t seem fair. Why is it happening that way?
Answer: Because, until the June 30, 2022 sunset date gets moved to a later date AND we actually see exactly how much money we are getting in June 2020 from the Healthy Homes surcharge, we are flying blind…we can’t set any more claim reserves on any new claims beyond what we’ve already done. If we do that, we run the risk of making promises to claimants on or after January 13 that we can’t fulfill.
Question: So if the sunset gets moved to, say, June 30, 2030 (the end of the Healthy Homes surcharge funding schedule)…are you saying that you will permit claimants who applied on or after January 13 to become active?
Answer: We’re almost saying that…the sunset date is only part of our problem. You have to remember that no one inside or outside of state government can tell us specifically how much revenue we’ll be getting from the Healthy Homes surcharge (just like no one inside or outside of state government can tell us when our next $20 million will be available to us from the CT Bond Commission). We must have time to evaluate both critical sources of revenue in order to make the best decision for homeowners.
Question: But don’t you know for certain that you’re getting approximately $8.5 million in June of 2020 and every year thereafter through June 30, 2030?
Answer: That’s the estimate…but it’s only an estimate. That could be the number. The number could be higher. The number could be considerably lower. No one can tell us.
Question: So if the sunset date gets moved, you get enough money in June of 2020, and you make my Pending Claim an active claim, and I am a severity class 3, that means I jump ahead of all the existing severity class 2s that have been in line since last year…right?
Answer: No. As of January 13, 2020, we are not going to permit any severity class 3 claim originally filed as a Pending Claim to jump ahead of an active severity class code 2 already registered with us as an active claim prior to January 13, 2020. We have many active severity class coded 2 claimants who have been in line since January of 2019, and we have determined that it is fair to issue Participation Agreements first for all existing active 3s and 2s in our system before any Pending Claimant can get in line for a Participation Agreement. This is only fair, given how long people have waited and the fact that we are only going to get $40M more in funding over the next two years from the CT Bond Commission source…and on top of that, we have virtually no idea how much we will get in Healthy Homes surcharge funds.
Question: But I thought severity class coded 3 claimants would always be ahead of everyone else. What has changed?
Answer: CFSIC’s Underwriting and Claims Management Guidelines will change effective January 13, 2020 to require that CFSIC issue Participation Agreements to valid, active severity coded 3 and 2 claimants who have been in line since the inception of our program before we move any other Pending claimants into active or even inactive status…regardless of funding amounts to come. If you file on or after January 13, we will have a record of your claim, and we will also have significantly more data about the extent of the crisis…but we’re not going to be able to do anything with your claim until the sunset date gets moved and we have evidence of a flow of predictable funds from the surcharge.
Question: How long are you going to keep the application process open from January 13?
Answer: A minimum of 30 days, but we don’t know exactly how long yet beyond that.
Question: Why don’t you know?
Answer: CFSIC’s fiscal year budget in the year July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020 is finite. When claims enter our system, we are charged by our outsourced claims management service company on a per-claim basis, as each claim is entered into the system, is analyzed, and is assessed. We have enough budget for the remainder of the fiscal year for a reasonable number of claims to enter our system between now and June 30, 2020…but not for a significant number to enter our system.
Question: But can’t you make an educated guess as to the number of people who are going to apply on or after January 13?
Answer: No, we can’t. Just before we opened our doors on January 10, 2019, we were told by email and through social media sources that we would get as many as 7,000 applications and that our application system would crash. We got 227 on the first day. We have found, through experience, that the wild projections as to application activity were then and may continue to be exaggerated. The reality of people actually taking action is unknown. We hope to have many new Pending Claimants, which will send a strong message about our need for funding. But to be clear, we will all see together what we will see…when we all see it.
Question: I want to apply as a Type 2 claimant. Will all the same rules apply to me?
Answer: Yes. (With one exception: Type 2 claimants do not require a severity class coding.)
Question: This all seems like a lot of work just to get in line and have my claim be in pending status for what might be a really long time. Is all this worth it?
Answer: That’s totally up to you. We’re giving people an opportunity to give us the data we need to raise more funds by identifying more potential claimants, who we hope to be able to assist at some point in the future when those funds arrive. We’ve gotten emails asking us to re-open for this purpose. We’re doing it. The question now will be how many victims of this crisis will actually take us up on our offer: file a claim, get in line, and with their claims registered…send a strong message about our need for more funding.
The CHFA Credit Enhancements Program
You should go here to learn more about the CHFA credit enhancements program as it is now constituted. Please note that it currently does not apply to condominiums. CFSIC did not create and is not administering the loan program, and the ESIS claim team cannot advise you in any way about the terms and conditions of any aspect of the program. The link noted in this section will take you to an outline of the program, as well as to a section marked “Frequently Asked Questions.” We also recommend contacting the Homeowner Advocate using the contact information on the Department of Housing website for more assistance.
CFSIC’s Annual Report
CFSIC’s 2019 Audited Financial
If you have any questions about the operation of the program, ESIS is your best source of information on your claim, and their phone number and email are shown below.
As you work through the information and application process (understanding that we are in suspension for the taking of new applications), here’s how you can get help:
– Call ESIS (the claim adjuster) at: 844-763-1207
– Email ESIS at: firstname.lastname@example.org
– Email CFSIC at: email@example.com