Owens Introduces Bill to Waive Fees for Disaster Victims

WASHINGTON – Congressman Bill Owens today introduced legislation that would grant the U.S. State Department the authority to waive passport fees for residents who live in an area that was declared a federal natural disaster. During recent natural disasters experienced in New York like Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, many residents lost untold amounts of property – including important documents like international passports.

“As New York begins to rebuild in the wake of spring flooding and Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, it is critical that we provide all the support available to New Yorkers to get their lives back in order,” said Owens. “Many New Yorkers in our district frequently travel to Canada for business or pleasure, and they don’t need to be hit with a $110 passport replacement fee during financially trying times.”

As with the majority of legislation Congressman Owens introduces in the House of Representatives, the Passport Replacement Fee Waiver Act of 2011, came from meetings with constituents. After meeting with officials from New York counties that border Canada, Congressman Owens took the concerns of local leaders to the State Department. In a letter last month, Owens addressed the State Department’s inaction to waive the passport replacement fee for individuals in counties affected by recent severe weather. When the State Department notified Owens that it has no legal authority to waive these passport fees, Congressman Owens began work to introduce this legislation.