With Hurricane Harvey already projected to cost tens of billions of dollars in damages, it raises the question: Where can black small business owners and African American home owners in Texas turn to get some financial help to pay for sizable losses?
(U.S Border Patrol agents Mario Fuentes, left, and Marc Gonzales search a totally destroyed mobile home for survivors in the wake of Hurricane Harvey near Rockport, Texas, Aug. 27, 2017. U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Image: Glenn Fawcett)
A Troubling Lack of Flood Insurance
Another big concern is how many people in Houston and surrounding areas hit by the storm actually have insurance for damages. At this point, there is no estimated number of flood insurance policy holders in Texas who will collect on their policies, Deanna Frazier, a Federal Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman, told Black Enterprise.
Robert Hunter, director of insurance at the Consumer Federation of America, has told the media that in the hurricane’s path along the Gulf Coast, only two in 10 homeowners have insurance coverage. He estimates some $35 billion of damage from just flooding caused by Harvey, paralleling Hurricane Katrina. However, roughly half of the flooded homes hit by Katrina had flood insurance coverage.
Some observers have estimated that Hurricane Harvey, in final damages, could exceed $100 billion. FEMA estimates that about one in five households in Texas will be eligible to file a claim with the National Flood Insurance Program. As of Monday (Sept. 4), 73,000 claims have been submitted, and more than $13.2 million in advance payments have been issued to insured survivors.
Tens of Thousands to Receive Disaster Assistance
Some 180,000 survivors have been approved for FEMA disaster assistance totaling $148 million, allowing them to pay rent while their main homes are not livable, help repair primary living spaces such as kitchen and bedrooms and replace personal property like a car, eye glasses, or handle medical needs.
“We’re helping people, but we still have 393,000 people who have registered and are awaiting assistance,” Frazier says. “We are providing them temporary housing until a more permanent living situation can be found.”
Frazier says the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) has about $1.7 billion available to pay out claims with borrowing authority for $5.8 billion more. The NFIP is a federal program managed by FEMA.
The Trump administration has asked Congress for $7.85 billion as part of an initial request for funds for Harvey, with another request expected by late this month, CNN reported.
The official request occurred late last Friday in a letter from President Donald Trump’s budget chief to House Speaker Paul Ryan. The initial amount requested for Harvey relief was higher than the $5.95 billion figure administration officials voiced earlier in the day.
Inaugural Aid for Small Businesses Part of Funding Relief Request
Most of the initial request is expected to go to FEMA, which is using cash as the main agency handling disaster relief. The rest, about $450 million, will go to the U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBA is offering low-interest recovery loans to homeowners, renters, and businesses. SBA’s disaster assistance program budget is currently $3.3 billion, according to Carol Chastang, a SBA spokeswoman.
The SBA has approved 298 disaster loans for a total of $26.7 million. Of those, 279 home loans have been approved for $25 million, and 19 business disaster loans have been approved for $1.6 million, Chastang says.
Where to Get Assistance
Frazier says FEMA is urging people to register with the agency so they can get assistance as soon as possible. Survivors can submit claims through their local insurance agent who sold them their policy. Any homeowner who had flood insurance may file a claim with the NFIP.
All survivors are urged to register for FEMA assistance, regardless of whether they had insurance or not. Frazier says they can call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or register online at www.disasterassistance.gov.
The SBA has opened two business recovery centers; the BRC at the University of Houston and the Port Aransas Community Center.
Additionally, the Insurance Information Institute offers tips on how to square insurance claims after a disaster.