Getting Help in the Wake of
Superstorm Sandy

In the midst of all the damage and upheaval many people are experiencing as a result of this awful storm, it is important to document your damage and to seek as much insured compensation for your losses as possible. In addition to what your own insurance can do, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) also provide disaster recovery assistance.

FEMA, the SBA and the State of Connecticut have some very helpful and meaningful advice for those homeowners and businesses who may never have experienced losses of this magnitude before.

Disaster Declarations

Senator Ed Meyer and Governor Malloy listen to a homeowner in Mdison after SandyImmediately after the storm Governor Malloy requested, and President Obama immediately granted, declarations of an expedited major disaster in Connecticut for Fairfield, New Haven, Middlesex and New London Counties in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. This declaration paves the way to provide assistance to individuals, businesses and nonprofits for a variety of disaster-assistance services and programs.

In the coming days, state officials and FEMA will be conducting damage assessments to determine if additional counties may be eligible for assistance. Residents and businesses in the non-declared counties (Litchfield, Hartford, Tolland and Windham) should call 2-1-1 to report their damage.

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What is FEMA’s Disaster Assistance?

Disaster assistance is financial or direct assistance to individuals and families whose property has been damaged or destroyed as a result of a federally declared disaster, and whose losses are not covered by insurance. It is meant to help you with critical expenses that cannot be covered in other ways. This assistance is not intended to restore your damaged property to its condition before the disaster.

Sandy-damaged houseAccording to FEMA, if you have insurance you must also file a claim with your insurance company. The state Insurance Commissioner advises that if you have not already contacted your insurance agent to file a claim, you should do so as soon as possible. Failure to file a claim with your insurance company may affect your eligibility for assistance.

There are three ways to apply for disaster assistance from FEMA:

Whether applying online at DisasterAssistance.gov, from your computer or smartphone, or over the phone through a FEMA call center, you should have a pen and paper and the following information ready:

  • Your Social Security number
  • Current and pre-disaster address
  • A telephone number where you can be contacted
  • Insurance information
  • Total household annual income
  • A routing and account number from your bank (only necessary if you want to have disaster assistance funds transferred directly into your bank account.) Lookup your bank routing number.
  • A description of your losses that were caused by the disaster

FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers

Those with additional questions or who would like to speak to someone in person have the option of visiting one of several FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) that have been set up around the state. The DRCs are located at:

  • BRIDGEPORT This center is now closed
    Housatonic Community College
  • FAIRFIELD
    *This site is now a: Disaster Loan Outreach Center
    Senior Center
    100 Mona Terrace
    Mondays through Fridays, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
    (closed Christmas and New Year’s days)
  • GREENWICH This center is now closed
    Western Greenwich Civic Center
  • GROTON This center is now closed
    Groton Senior Center
  • MILFORD This center is now closed
    Simon Lake Elementary School (former)
  • NEW HAVEN This center is now closed
    Long Wharf Campus Gateway Community College
  • NORWALK This center is now closed
    Norwalk City Hall
  • OLD SAYBROOK This center is now closed
    Department of Police Services
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Out of Work Due to Hurricane Sandy?

If you missed work due to Hurricane Sandy, you can file a claim to see if you are eligible for benefits. If you have returned to work, or have a date to return to work within the next six weeks, you and your employer can complete and mail the UC-62V claim application. The form and instructions can be found on the Department of Labor’s Web site.

If you were out of work for less than a full week you may be eligible for partial benefits. Two-thirds of your gross weekly earnings would be deducted from your Weekly Benefit Rate (WBR).

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Assistance for Small Businesses and Nonprofits

The SBA is committed to providing the people of Connecticut with federal disaster loans; getting businesses and communities up and running after a disaster is their highest priority.

small business carpet damage from floodingSmall businesses in the disaster declaration counties mentioned above are eligible for both Physical and Economic Injury Disaster Loans from the SBA. Small businesses and most private nonprofit organizations in the other communities in the state are eligible to apply only for SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans.

Applicants may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via SBA’s secure website at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.

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Energy-Related Reconstruction Costs

Governor Malloy announced in November that $3 million in additional energy efficiency incentives are now available for residents and businesses replacing furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and refrigerators as a result of damage from Storm Sandy.

The incentives will apply for replacement of equipment with more energy efficient models between October 29 and December 31. The deadline for applications for the incentives is December 31, 2012.

In addition to these incentives special funding is available in the form of low-cost financing for eligible equipment with optional on-utility-bill repayment for customers who make energy efficiency upgrades in equipment or insulation and air sealing while renovating or reconstructing their residence or business as a result of storm damage.

A special team has been formed to assist home owners and businesses through the application process for these increased incentives and financing options.

Anyone seeking information about the various energy efficiency incentives or financing options available for replacing or repairing equipment should call the Connecticut Energy Information Line at 1-877-WISE-USE (1-877-947-3873).

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Regarding Insurance

Connecticut homeowners will not face higher-cost hurricane deductibles resulting from the impact of this week’s damaging storm. In the wake of Tropical Storm Irene, I helped pass into law new criteria that insurers must meet before imposing a higher hurricane deductible. Based on data from the National Weather Service, Storm Sandy did not meet the statutory criteria and therefore “companies may not impose a hurricane deductible on Connecticut claims.”

homeowner and police officer after storm SandyThe state Insurance Department offers the following tips when filing claims:

  • Contact your insurer as soon as possible
  • Take photos of the damage
  • DO NOT make permanent repairs until your insurer has inspected the property
  • Keep a diary of all contacts and conversations with your insurer
  • If you can still live in the home, talk with your agent about critical repairs that need to be made. Whether you make the repairs or hire someone, save the receipts for your claim
  • If you need to find other lodging, keep records of expenses and all receipts. Homeowner’s and renter’s insurance generally provide limited coverage for expenses like meals, rent, utility installation and transportation
  • Your carrier will send an insurance adjuster to survey the damage at no cost to you. Public adjusters may offer the same services, but you would be responsible for any related fees. Check to be sure they are licensed with the Insurance Department
  • Do not feel rushed or pushed to agree on a settlement. If there are disagreements, try to resolve them with your insurer. If you cannot reach an agreement, the Connecticut Insurance Department can help you decide if arbitration or mediation is an option
  • Your full claim may come in multiple payments. The first will likely be an emergency advance and may include additional living expenses. The payment for your personal property and any additional living expenses will be made out to you. Payments for the structure may be payable to you and your lien holder if there is a mortgage on your home
  • Even after settling your claim, if you think of items that were not in your initial loss list, contact your insurance company. Unless the company has paid the entire limit for the coverage of those types of items, it is possible the company will make an additional payment
  • If your damages exceed the amount of your coverage, federal agencies will occasionally provide grants or low-interest loans to assist with recovery following major disasters
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For Those Who Want to Help

disaster reliefCash is best: the best way to support survivors of Sandy is to make a financial contribution to trusted organization. Please read these tips on donating and volunteering responsibly.

Give blood: numerous blood drives have been canceled as a result of the storm and the Red Cross has a need for blood donations. To schedule a blood donation or for more information about giving blood or platelets, visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
 

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