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Hurricane Relief Info

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Here is some helpful legal advice concerning FEMA from our Trustee Chair, Sandra Clark:

Posted October 9, 2017

Consider applying for an SBA loan if you need money to fix up your home, or to replace personal property including cars.  Approval may take several weeks but for lower income families the interest rates can be very low.  For middle income families the interest rate is probably 3.5 percent but it may be easier to qualify than a conventional loan. The SBA has been quoted as saying the biggest obstacle the SBA faces in this situation is getting people to apply. You can apply at any FEMA location, call 800-659-2955 or online WWW.sba.gov/disaster-assistance. You can apply for an SBA loan regardless of whether you had flood insurance or not. Normally SBA is limited to loans for businesses but this is not a normal time and they have loans that individuals or nonprofits may apply for and have a group set up within the SBA to deal with disaster-related loans. You will need to pay this money back and you need to be able to qualify,  but don't fail to apply because you think you might not qualify--these SBA emergency lending terms are easier to qualify for than traditional bank loans.

Also, do not forget to fill out your own Proof of Loss statement and submit it to your insurance carrier including FEMA if you do not agree with the amount of loss determined by the insurance adjuster.  You should have an independent adjuster or a contractor to help you with estimates to support your proof of loss statement.
 

Posted September 19, 2017

Federally backed mortgage loans by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are offering significant loan payment relief for those affected by Hurricane Harvey.   They may allow up to 12 months of nonpayment of mortgage notes while recovery is going on without any damage to credit rating.   Contact them right away  if your loan is backed by these groups.   If your mortgage is not federally backed, you should contact your mortgage lender anyway to determine whether they will also have some program available for temporary relief from mortgage payments while houses are being rebuilt.   The mortgage lender to contact is usually noted on your loan payment documents. 

Posted September 11, 2017

Some Important Reminders for you or your family and friends damaged by the flood: 

  1.  You may be entitled to temporary housing or reimbursement for up to 2 months rent if you cannot live in your house
  2. You may be entitled to Critical Needs Assistance or emergency funds u p to several hundred dollars---please apply for these and make sure to bring this up when talking to FEMA adjuster.
  3. Your FEMA adjuster may be young and inexperienced---make sure to question anything that does not make sense to you---ask the question to any adjuster or claims handler---Where does it say that in the regulation or in my policy?
  4. If any part of your claim is denied appeal.   Appeal any FEMA or Flood Insurance denial within 60 days of the date of letter denying claim!!!!
  5. Prepare you own proof of claim to file with insurance company.   File a claim with Windstorm, Homeowners, auto, and Flood---one of these may cover some or all of a claim.   Make sure to see if you have sewer backup coverage some of the homeowners policies have that.
  6. Apply for low interest SBA loan even if you decide not to use it   you may qualify even if you cant qualify for bank loan---must applywithin 60 days of disaster
  7. Apply for FEMA  NOW EVEN IF YOU HAVE SOME INSURANCE
  8. If you had to miss work without pay or lost your job or job withdrawn, you may be entitle to disaster unemployment.   Make sure to check into that.
  9. Keep all financial information, all receipts, all estimates, make copies of everything----do not give the adjuster your only copy of anything that might support your proof of claim.   Take photos, photos, photos.   of everything that was damaged
  10. Do not take the first no for an answer,   if your insurance adjuster prepares a proof of claim that is lower than you think   prepare your own and submit it.   The Jefferson bar association will have free clinics starting soon and The State Bar of Texas has a hotline that you can call for legal questions.

Posted September 8, 2017

Comments about FEMA and Insurance
(These comments are from available sources and not intended to be legal advice to any individual about specific problems, but this may be helpful)
1. Insurance---If you have insurance, make an insurance claim right away on your flood, windstorm, auto, umbrella, homeowners---all your policies. You don't know right now which one might cover some or part of your damage.
2. FEMA will require you to make insurance claims and FEMA is a backup for people without insurance or with limited insurance. So find your policies and have them available. FEMA will not pay if you have insurance that will cover a loss---i.e. No double recovery.
3. Make a FEMA claim as well as soon as possible.
4. Keep samples of carpet, flooring, wall covering etc for insurance or FEMA adjusters to look at when assessing the extent of your damage.
5. There will be a FEMA representative assigned to your claim--they will set up some kind of meeting to evaluate your eligibility and extent of your damage. With the extent of damage around our area and Houston, I don't know where, when or how they will set up these initial meetings. So make sure you have that FEMA claim already in process. You do not need to make a claim more than once at this point.
6. FEMA may reimburse for hotel expenses for some period of time if a person /family is without shelter, but might not. Insurance policy may depending on terms of policy and may not---but keep all those records and receipts and submit that as part of your claim.
7. Keep records of all estimates, Out of pocket expenses, all payments to be able to support your claim. A portion of a claim may be denied but having records and receipts will be helpful in supporting a claim.
8. Renters and students may be eligible for benefits for lost furnishings, books, supplies, equipment, etc. so make a claim for insurance if you have it and for FEMA to see if any of these losses may be covered. It is not just homeowners who qualify.
9. FEMA trailers--apply through the FEMA number 1-800-621-3362---you may qualify even if a renter and not an owner of a house. Although homeowners may also qualify. Can live in one up to 18 months rent free (could be shorter); after that might get an extension or might have to pay fair market value rent. Must pay your own utility bills and cannot get other temporary housing at the same time. Let FEMA know if you have a place to park a FEMA Mobil housing unit.
10. Something to think about ---if you apply for benefits and are denied---you may appeal--in writing and must be within 60 days so don't wait ---some times appeals are granted. Also, you will hear about other people gaming the system and maybe getting more than their fair share or getting more than you or your loved ones--don't let that discourage you. Just move ahead with your individual situation.

-Sandra Clark

Previous Post:

For those of you that have water damage, it's important to register now with FEMA. Jefferson County has been declared a federal disaster area and that means people here will be eligible to apply for FEMA assistance. We are now eligible to apply FEMA assistance. We are now eligible for FEMA local and national funds. So, even without flood insurance, other FEMA assistance may be available. It may take a few days but FEMA will come into play. Even if you called and were told there was no FEMA, that is no longer the case. That was before the national disaster label was put on Jefferson County. That is a very important distinction. Go to Harvey Disater Relief at disasterassistance.gov or 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) to notify FEMA of your situation. Do it ASAP because there will be many of thousands of claims. This is NOT the insurance related number.