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Storm victims keeping insurers busy; FEMA addresses confusion over denials

October 28 is the deadline to register with FEMA
Published: Sep. 9, 2021 at 9:51 PM CDT
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Homes damaged by Hurricane Ida.
Homes damaged by Hurricane Ida.

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Some local insurance brokers say they are swamped with calls from customers who have damage from Hurricane Ida. As more electricity is restored in southeast Louisiana more and more residents are returning to their homes. And FEMA is addressing confusion over why some property owners are being denied federal grants almost immediately.

Dave Heil unpacked his vehicle in his driveway after returning from evacuation to a nearby state.

“We left last Friday, so we’re just back today,” he said.

FOX 8 asked Heil about the damage his home sustained. (SW) How much damage did you sustain?

“I don’t know all of it; compared to some, it’s really minor, some roof, some fencing, some soffits,” Heil stated.

He said he had already contacted his insurance company but is not sure if the damage meets his insurance deductible.

“I don’t really know at this point, probably not meet the hurricane deductible and we’ll see,” said Heil.

Holly Maronge suffered damage to her home as well and to other properties.

“We have a little roof damage, fence went down in the yard, basically that’s it here. I was kind of shielded by my two-story neighbor with a two-story house but that’s all I got. I have some offices that took on water, one on the west bank, the mid-city office in the Carrollton area, roof damage,” she said.

She also has her properties insured.

“I’ve filed six claims and heard a peep from anyone,” said Maronge.

She said she reached out to FEMA.

“I did check yesterday with FEMA, and they said that I would be receiving a denial letter in the mail,” said Maronge.

John Mills is an external affairs officer with FEMA.

“It’s not one size fits all. We work with everyone on a case-by-case basis,” he said.

Mills said by law, FEMA cannot duplicate insurance payments.

“If you do have serious damage, serious needs related to Ida and you don’t have insurance or if your insurance isn’t going to cover everything apply for disaster assistance, FEMA will work will with you on a case-by-case basis whether you have insurance or not because as you know, a lot of people are really hurting because of Hurricane Ida,” said Mills.

And FEMA is providing two types of rapid assistance to storm victims who meet the criteria.

“FEMA is providing money for critical needs for people who have an urgent need for money for food, water, fuel for transportation and prescription drugs. We’re also providing expedited rental assistance money people who had to evacuate to any hotel before Ida hit or right after Ida and even if people have an urgent need to evacuate right now because of the ongoing power outages. We’re also providing grant money for basic home repairs for homeowners to help them restore their home to a habitable condition,” said Mills.

Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon is ordering insurers to cover evacuation expenses for policyholders. Allstate is one of the major insurers that says it will do so.

State Farm issued the following statement related to evacuation expenses:

“We are working with our customers one-on-one to determine their individual circumstances and provide assistance in their recovery process. We are committed to pay what we owe and encourage our policyholders who have suffered a loss to submit a claim.”

Additionally, State Farm provided the following tips:

Filing your insurance claim:

  • State Farm customers: If/when you have an internet connection available, create or login to your online State Farm account or mobile app and select the electronic fund transfer (EFT) option to receive claim payments electronically, with no need for a paper check or banks to be open to receive your payment.
  • The State Farm mobile app also allows claim reporting and tracking of claim status, plus additional options such as rental car reservations (if you have rental coverage).
  • State Farm policyholders who have damage from Hurricane Ida can submit and manage their claim through various channels. This includes calling or emailing their State Farm agent, calling 1-800-SFCLAIM, submitting a claim through our mobile app or through our website at statefarm.com/claims.

Power outage losses:

  • Depending on your coverage, you may be covered for loss of spoiled food due to power outage. If possible, put together an estimate of what types and how much food has been lost.

Home & vehicle flooding:

  • If you have a flooded vehicle, record the highest level of water exposure on the vehicle. Take pictures & video.
  • If you have comprehensive coverage on your auto policy, it will generally cover flood damage to a vehicle, subject to your deductible.
  • We recommend against driving vehicles damaged by floodwater until they have been inspected by a qualified technician. Starting a flooded vehicle can cause additional damage.
  • If possible, leave flood cleanup to the professionals. Some floodwaters contain contaminants that may pose serious health hazards.
  • Home flood insurance is provided by the federal government through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). See floodsmart.gov for more information.
  • For those impacted by flooding who do not already have the NFIP flood insurance, FEMA (fema.gov) can be a resource.

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