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Does America Have Enough Disaster Relief Insurance?

After Hurricane Harvey, Americans started questioning the nation’s preparedness for natural disasters. Hurricane Harvey isn’t the only natural disaster to cause concern—2017 set a record for disaster damage in the United States. Weather is becoming more severe, and though Texas and other areas are preparing better due to lessons learned from the past, the rest of the nation may be unprepared for future natural disasters.

A Continuous Pattern of Threatening Weather

In 2017, Hurricane Irma was the strongest storm recorded in the Atlantic, Hurricane Harvey brought historic floods to the Houston area, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, record heat swept across the nation’s southwest, and massive wildfires engulfed portions of California.

In 2018, the weather continued to test the nation's resilience. When it reached land on October 9, 2018, Hurricane Michael became the third-most powerful storm on record to reach land. California had its hottest month on record, and severe fires burned once again throughout the state. Additionally, Hurricane Florence triggered historic flooding throughout parts of the East Coast.

So far, 2019 has not been an exception for this pattern of severe weather. The year began with a polar vortex over much of the nation, causing extreme temperatures as a low as -50°F (-45°C). In March, a string of tornadoes struck portions of the Southeastern United States that killed 23 and injured over 100. In the same month, a “bomb cyclone” caused unprecedented floods in Nebraska and inflicted more than $1 billion in damage. With hurricane season just 2 months away, it’s time to start asking one question: do Americans have enough disaster relief and insurance options?

Homeowner’s Insurance in the United States

According to Consumer Reports, Americans are woefully underinsured and unprotected from natural disasters. For instance, most homeowner’s insurance does not cover flood damage. So, even if they have insurance for wind damage, many Americans do not realize that they need to purchase flood insurance from the NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program). This is especially true with those who suffered damage from Hurricane Harvey, a storm that flooded areas with no history of flooding. If a person lives in an area known to have storms, they should evaluate what their insurance covers, even if they don’t believe that they live in an area at risk of flooding.

According to the International Risk Management Institute, there are glaring problems with the NFIP. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) oversees the NFIP as mandated by the National Flood Insurance Act, making flood insurance claims a federal matter. The fact that flood claims are federal means that assertions of bad faith are more difficult to prove. It also means the public is on the hook for paying for flood damage, infamous for being the most costly event to insure. 

Disaster Relief Management in the United States

According to The Hill, disaster management in the United States needs to be improved. Currently, 90% of all federal dollars used for flood management come through presidential disaster declarations. Instead of waiting for disasters to strike to improve flood control, better planning could mitigate flood damage in the United States. Texas has learned this the hard way—the state senate recently passed a sweeping set of bills designed to improve flooding protection across the state.

If you are having trouble making an insurance claim for damages from Hurricane Harvey, call Arnold & Itkin today at (888) 400-2101.