Houston Flooding Relief Assistance and Other Useful Info

After one of the worst natural disasters to ever hit the United States, it is time to recover and rebuild.  Below are several helpful maps of flooding areas and shelters, and processes for filing an insurance claim or FEMA assistance.

Flood Maps and Shelter Locations

Transtar Traffic Map: https://traffic.houstontranstar.org/layers/

List of Road Closures: https://traffic.houstontranstar.org/roadclosures/roadclosures.aspx?typ=hw#highwater

Harris County Flood Warning System Map: https://www.harriscountyfws.org/

Power Outages: http://www.centerpointenergy.com/en-us/residential/in-your-community/electric-outage-center?sa=ho

List of Houston Area Shelters: http://abc13.com/weather/list-of-shelters-around-houston-area/2341032/

Processes for Filing a Claim or Applying for FEMA Assistance

File an Insurance Claim - https://www.fema.gov/nfip-file-your-claim

1) Start the claim process by notifying your insurer.  You will need the following information:

a) The name of your insurance company

b) Your policy number

c) A telephone and/or email address where you can be reached at all times

2) Document the Damage

a) Take photos of all damaged property

b) Make a list of damaged or lost items; include date of purchase, value, and receipts, if possible.

3) Complete a Proof of Loss to support your claim

a) File the Proof of Loss with insurance company within 60 days of the flood

i) A proof of loss is a sworn statement of the amount you are claiming including supporting documentation

b) The Proof of Loss must contain the specific details set forth in the Standard Flood Insurance Policy

4) You will receive your claim payment after you and the insurer agree on the amount of damages and the insurer has your complete, accurate, and signed Proof of Loss

5) If you receive a denial letter, you have the following options:

a) Work with your insurance company to find a resolution

b) File an appeal with FEMA within 60 days of the date of the insurer’s denial letter

i) Send your appeal to FEMA, 400 C Street SW, 3rd Floor SW, Washington, D.C. 20472-3010, or FEMA-NFIP-Appeals@fema.dhs.gov.

ii) you must explain the issue(s) in writing, include a copy of the denial letter from your insurer, and provide any supporting documentation.

iii) There is no fee to file an appeal and you do not need a third party to represent you. If you have a third party represent you, FEMA will not pay for any costs incurred for representation.  By law, FEMA cannot discuss your claim with a third-party representative unless you provide certain information in writing.

c) Seek an appraisal

i) if you and your insurer agree a covered loss occurred but disagree about the price of the loss, you may request appraisal of the amount of loss to flood damaged property.

ii) If you use the appraisal option you cannot also use the appeal option.

d) File a lawsuit against your insurer

i) must be filed within one year of the denial of your claim

ii) You must file suit in the district court where the damage occurred. (42 U.S.C. § 4072, 44 C.F.R. § 62.22).

e) Authorize someone else to represent you

i) As discussed above, FEMA cannot discuss your claim with a third-party representative unless you provide the following information in writing:

1) your full name, address, date and place of birth, the name(s) of your representative(s), and your signature. You must have this document notarized or include the following statement: “I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct. Executed on [DATE]. [SIGNATURE].”

f) Get More Information

i) For more information about flood insurance claims, please reference the Flood Insurance Claims Handbook mailed to you by your insurer.

However, most homeowners do not carry flood insurance. Data shows fewer than 20 percent in the Houston area hold flood insurance coverage from the National Flood Insurance Program (“NFIP”), which is often the only source available that covers flooding.  Residential properties in designated flood zones that are financed by federally backed loans are required to have NFIP policies.  With so many homeowners exposed to uninsured flood losses, nearly a half million are expected to seek disaster aid in Texas.  If you do not have flood insurance, or your insurance company will not cover your loss, you may qualify for FEMA assistance.  FEMA may help with rental assistance (covering up to two months if your residence is inhabitable), some home repairs (depending on how much of your primary living space was damaged), some personal property (not clothing but possibly your primary vehicle), and possibly disaster unemployment assistance (Texas must ask for the benefit to be activated and it currently has not).

Get FEMA Assistance - https://www.disasterassistance.gov/

1) Apply by phone or online within 60 days from the date of Hurricane Harvey (8/25/2017)

a) Only one person per household should register. If more than one person in your household applies, it could delay the process.

b) When you apply online or by phone, you will receive a registration number.

2) The only application takes 18-20 minutes and you will need the following information:

a) Social security number

i) At least one person in your household must have a Social Security number. FEMA does not check for applicant's citizenship status. If you do not have a Social Security number, but your child does, you can use your child's Social Security number.

b) Proof of residency

i) a utility bill will suffice

c) Insurance information

i) What types of insurance coverage you have

1) The name of your insurance company

2) Your policy number

ii) a statement from your insurance company confirming that you are not covered for flood damages.

d) Contact information

i) Address and phone number of where the damage occurred and how FEMA can contact you currently

ii) Mailing address

e) Electronic Funds Transfer Direct Deposit Information (optional)

i) If you qualify for assistance you may receive funds directly in your account

3) Within 7-10 days, you will receive a call from a FEMA inspector to schedule a time to come inspect your property.

a) Do not wait for the inspector to begin cleaning up your home. Delaying the cleanup will allow mold to grow, causing more damage. Before you begin cleanup, take photos of everything you will need to repair.

b) Keep receipts for anything you buy for cleanup and repairs.

c) During disasters like this one, the Small Business Administration provides low interest loans to homeowners, renters and small businesses. If you apply for FEMA, you will receive an SBA application.

d) In the coming days, FEMA will have representatives at Disaster Recovery Centers set up by cities and counties where needed.

In the aftermath of this devastating storm, there are numerous people displaced and an untold amount of damage.  As we look to rebuild, these are just a few ways you can receive the help you need.