Lessons Learned from Hurricane Sandy

I too am a disaster victim and survivor.  I woke up on the morning of October 29th, 2012 to clear skies and stepped out of my house, walked down my front stairs onto the 3 feet of sand that had washed up from the beach during the storm.  As I started walking towards the beach (at the end of my block) I thought to myself “I don’t remember Kathy’s house having a garage,” as I got closer I realized her house had been ravaged by the storm and the roof was hovering 10 feet above the remains of her home.  Hurricane Sandy had hit Rockaway Beach in Queens NYC and life would never be the same or anywhere normal for several years to come.  The ocean had surged the night before at approximately 8:00 PM and soon after that a huge wave smashed into the exterior door to my office and flew in bringing 6 feet of sea water and debris with it.

It’s been 2 months since Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria hit, changing lives forever.  Now that the cleanup has begun and you have settled into a routine, what next?

#1 Hire a public adjuster.  This is an independent party who will liaise with your insurance company and their adjuster on your behalf.  I had located my insurance policies and read through them and was happy to see that I had a special hurricane rider, an equipment replacement rider, and business interruption coverage.  Unfortunately ocean surges were listed as uninsurable and I was not able to show how wind damage to power lines caused utility outages.  I was denied.  My first check arrived once I hired a public adjuster who acted as my advocate.

 

 

#2 Check insurance policies for sewer backup coverage and funding for new flood prevention systems (i.e. flood barriers, waterproofing, french drains, check flow valves).  Read through for specifics on collectibles like stamps and coins.  Check for artwork coverage.  Make sure to file an appeal with the insurance company if you don’t get satisfaction the first time.

#3 Apply for a real estate tax reduction: your property may have sustained considerable damage and possibly a temporary or permanent loss in the fair market value.  While this might give you relief for future years it may also readjust the base for future rate hikes and any reductions will be beneficial.

#4 Search out benefits at local outreach centers.  You and/or your business may be eligible for grants from state and local government agencies and local rotary clubs.  You and/or your employees may be eligible for unemployment insurance.  I was able to find out about business grants while questioning officials at local multi agency sites.  I was also able to apply for unemployment insurance for all of my employees and obtain a bank sponsored uncollateralized short term (3 year) business loan at a very low rate (1%).

#5 Start a notebook to help document losses and out of pocket expenses.  Keep copies of receipts for any expenditures for cleanup and necessary replacement items.  Make notes about items as you realize they have been lost in the storm.  Keep copies of all rejection notices: SBA, FEMA, insurance. Keep copies of all check remittance stubs and accompanying letters.

Useful links:

https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/help-for-victims-of-hurricane-harvey

https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/tax-relief-in-disaster-situations

https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/retirement-plans-can-make-loans-hardship-distributions-to-victims-of-hurricane-harvey

https://comptroller.texas.gov/taxes/resources/disaster-relief.php

http://aparnesscpa.com/services/casualty-loss-victims/

http://go.nccpap.org/home

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