BISMARCK, ND – With the height of the emergency flood crisis past, the record number of homes inundated with flood waters across the state continues to climb and displaced homeowners find themselves struggling with when, how, and if they will be able to rebuild.
Insurance Commissioner Adam Hamm’s office has put together a large amount of information on their website dedicated to this year’s flooding, including informational bulletins, questions and answers, and myths versus reality, and helpful links.
Although state officials continue working to get more counties approved for individual assistance from FEMA, the maximum grant FEMA can give people is $30,200. But ND Insurance Commissioner Adam Hamm warns that no one should get their hopes up. “In practical terms, it looks like a lot of folks are getting substantially less around the country, somewhere south of $10,000.”
The other aspect of FEMA’s IA is a loan program through the Small Business Association (SBA). The 2.5% low-interest loans have maximum loans amounts of $200,000 for homes, $40,000 for personal property, and $500,000 for businesses. For many suffering the total loos of their family homes, that doesn’t amount to much, particularly for those without flood insurance.
Hamm reminds homeowners that there is a huge difference between flood insurance and homeowners insurance, and that water damages normally covered by homeowners policies may in fact not be covered if the water damages are directly due to flooding, as opposed other causes.
Also, homeowners insurance does not normally include sump pump failure and sewer backup. Those issues are only covered through a special endorsement added onto the primary home insurance policy. Unfortunately, even in cases where there is an endorsement, the endorsement may not cover the items if they are due to a flood.
One of the most common myths circulating is that homeowners insurance may cover some flood water damages confined to basements, and that flood insurance only kicks in once the water reaches the first floor of a building.
Flood insurance may only be purchased through the federal government, although often it is sold through an individual’s homeowners’ insurance carrier, and claims are handled by the federal agency, not by private companies.
In addition to insurance coverage, individuals may also seek assistance through FEMA. Individual Assistance (IA) has now been approved for five counties, and state officials continue to pressure the federal government to expand the number of approved counties. Even the fortunate few with flood insurance are being told to register with FEMA as well.
The Individual Assistance program includes a wide range of aid, including emergency home repair, temporary disaster housing, replacement grants for serious disaster-related needs and expenses not covered by insurance or assistance programs, but is limited in its payouts.
FEMA now has offices operating in Bismarck and Minot.
Officials are also warning people to be on their guard against flood insurance scammers and FEMA impersonators. Senator Kent Conrad urged residents from flood impacted areas to be wary when asked for personal information from individuals claiming to represent federal and state agencies. Before divulging any personal information, individuals should ask to see an official FEMA identification and an official “welcome letter” from the agency representative.
“It’s unfortunate, but true,” Conrad said. “While officials will make every effort to expose these frauds, it is important for each of us to be mindful of the threat that exists and to safeguard our personal information.”