Florida is picking up the pieces after Hurricane Irma. While some organization such as the American Red Cross and Feeding Florida are already helping victims with food and emergency supplies, it will take more than that to get things going again, more so for business owners.
Nonetheless, if you know where to look for help, you can be on the correct path to long-term recovery. We explore five options that you can use to get the aid you need to pull through the coming months.
How to get Insurance Help for Home Damage
The first thing that you need to do is to report your claim as soon as possible. Note that in the disasters such as hurricane Irma, insurers tend to work on a first come first served basis. And, you don’t need to have flood insurance to file a claim.
Sure, your homeowners’ insurance policy may not cover flood-related losses, but water and wind damage are entirely different. For instance, your insurer can compensate you if the wind ripped off your roof and as a result, water gained access to your home. In other words, don’t assume that you don’t qualify for payment just because you don’t have flood insurance.
Even then, filing a claim is the easiest part. Industry experts estimate that up to 70% of homeowners affected by Hurricane Irma don’t have flood insurance. If you’ve not insured your home for floods, getting compensation won’t be a walk in the park especially in cases of total loss.
What are your options to make sure that your insurer gives the maximum possible compensation? Well, your best bet lies in getting a reputable homeowners insurance attorney to argue out your case. Indeed, you need legal representation/advice if you’re going to recover anything substantial from your insurer.
How to Get Legal Advice for Irma Victims
The biggest question then becomes, how do you get legal advice without getting scammed? For starters, apart from assisting you to navigate through the murky claims process, an attorney will also help you;
- Deal with home repair contractors
- Replace will and any other legal document washed away by the hurricane
- Understand consumer protection statutes, available remedies, and procedures
- Counsel you on mortgage and foreclosure matters as well as landlord/tenant problems
Regarding getting legal advice, the Florida bar is offering free guidance and answering fundamental questions to the victims. You can field your queries to the more than five hundred attorneys at https://florida.freelegalanswers.org/. The site is a joint effort between the Florida Bar and the American Bar association.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is also running a toll-free legal aid hotline. The number is 1-866-550-2929. You can leave a message anytime in English and Spanish. Your call will be returned within two business days from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Here, you can get help on a range of topics including how to file insurance claims and how to secure FEMA benefits.
Other than that, the Florida Bar Foundation board of directors has raised $500, 000 to support local legal aid groups that don’t have the equipment get to their clients and offer help on civil legal matters.
How to Find a Good Restoration Company for Your Home
More than 2.2 million homes and businesses in Florida will go without power for weeks in the wake of Hurricane Irma. The Florida Power and Light (FPL) are already embarking on a full-scale restoration program. The process, however, will take more than a million working hours so the outage will last for a while.
Other than the FPL, the Consumer Energy dispatched more than 350 employees and contractors in Florida to help with restoration. Due to the effects of the hurricane, more private repair companies are yet to get access to the affected areas.
However, if you’re looking for a company to fix broken sewers and deal with plumbing technicalities, you may need to verify if they have the license and accreditation to work in Florida. You’re better off with a company that has years of experience in the business and one that employs professionally trained technicians.
How to Apply for a Disaster Loan
You can apply for financial aid to help you meet the temporary living expenses through FEMA’s Individual Household Program. FEMA is also offering long-term economic help particularly if your home is uninhabitable or if you need to make some repairs.
If Irma left you jobless, you could apply for financial support through the Disaster Unemployment Assistance program. You will be getting weekly unemployment payments if you don’t qualify for regular jobless benefits.
You may also want to know that the IRS extended the filing deadlines if you reside in the affected area. Now, you have up to January to file your returns, most importantly, you can pay your taxes in installments. Other than that, you may borrow some money if you have funds in a workplace retirement plan through the hardship loan. The IRS says that will reduce the red tape on companies offering hardship loans to those affected by the storm.
To apply for the FEMA assistance, visit DisasterAssistance.org within sixty days from the disaster declaration. You will have to provide your Social Security number, address, description of the damage, income, insurance details, contact information, and a routing as well as an account number to your savings or checking account.
Resources for Business Owners who Were Affected by the Storm
If Hurricane Irma hit your business, there are many resources to help you with recovery. One of the best places to get started is the Florida Virtual Business Emergency Center official website. Here, you can get up to date info on what’s happening in the private business sector.
Other resources include Small Business Development Centers, Visit Florida, Florida Chamber of Commerce and Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association. The state is also offering victims with resources to help business owners with planning and recovery.