Help Available When Insurance Claim Doesn’t Fully Cover Disaster Losses

January 9, 2006

Many who may have failed to register for federal aid after Hurricane Katrina, now find the settlement of their insurance claim did not cover their disaster losses. If so, they may be eligible for disaster assistance from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Alabama residents and evacuees should register before the March 11 deadline and talk to a FEMA disaster specialist even if they were insured for storm losses. The toll-free teleregistration number is 800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 800-462-7585.

Policies purchased many years ago may pay less than is needed to get repairs done today. And many insurers only cover very specific items.

Disaster assistance may include grants for temporary housing and repairs to make a home safe and habitable. The programs may also include a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) low-interest loan for things like debris removal on personal property, damaged and destroyed fences, tree trimming services, tree replacement, landscaping losses and damaged or destroyed sheds and other outbuildings.

“Disaster assistance is designed to cover both uninsured and under-insured disaster losses,” said Federal Coordinating Officer Michael Bolch. “By law FEMA cannot duplicate services or funds compensated by an insurance claim or provided by another assistance program but we can help with unmet needs.”

Individuals are advised to file their insurance claim at the same time they register with FEMA in order not to delay the process and they will be given a FEMA file number. Once they receive the insurance settlement information they should call to complete the application, referring to the file number.

“We want to remind homeowners, renters and business owners who found they were not adequately compensated by insurance not to miss out on the assistance they may be eligible for,” said State Coordinating Officer Bruce Baughman. “Every bit of help to individuals and families will contribute to Alabama ‘s recovery from Hurricane Katrina.”

The deadline to register for disaster assistance was extended to March 11 to give disaster survivors more time to apply. The insurance settlement may have been too little to cover losses, but it’s not too late to apply for help.

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