Disaster response is underway in Louisiana as governmental agencies, insurance claims offices, and nongovernmental agencies step up their efforts to provide assistance in record flooding across the Mississippi River areas affected.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has been working very closely with the US Army Corps of Engineers, the US Department of Agriculture, and Federal Emergency Management Agency leadership as the levee system has been taxed to its limit and major population areas like Baton Rouge and New Orleans were threatened their levees would be topped by the massive flows. Official reports show at Red River Landing there is a flow of 1.5 million cubic feet of water which could have topped those major metropolitan levee systems with as much as 20 feet of water. The Corps of Engineers opened the flood control structures to avert the loss of life inevitable without the direct intervention steps taken. Spillway flooding was announced with ample time to evacuate those areas to be affected, and floodwaters are expected to recede weeks into the future.
Louisiana Department of Insurance Commissioner James J. Donelon says flood insurance covered losses to property if policies have been in force for the usual 30 day waiting period. Property owners, whose assests are in peril as the Bonne Carre Spillway is 100% opened and the Morganza Spillway is 25% opened, are concerned about the flood insurance coverage they may have. Commissioner Donelon asks that insurance agents be contacted promptly and reminds policy owners his staff is ready to assist in answering questions. He reminds Louisiana residents, only 29% of which have flood insurance, that standard homeowner’s, renter’s and business property insurance policies do not cover flood damage from rising waters. Only the National Flood Insurance Program, available through many agents, and issued by the NFIP addresses the losses if the accessible, affordable policy was purchased prior to the flooding. These policies do not cover loss of use or additional living expenses when residents are forced to evacuate. The NFIP recommends contacting your agent with the inventory documentation for your home, camp or other protected assets. Additional financial records, such as major appliance receipts, may be required documentation for covered losses. More information is available at www.ready.gov to address recovery.
National catastrophe teams from insurance companies were mobilize in the south Louisiana areas to process damage claims. Claim responses will be time-consuming yet are already underway for those suffering losses as adjusters move through floodlands. USDA crop and livestock insurance will avert many personal financial losses for the Louisiana insured and some assistance is available even for those uninsured. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) reminds crop and livestock producers that experience severe damage that prompt contact is necessary for assistance in recovery. Among the many essential FSA programs are the Emergency Conservation Program, the Livestock Indemnity Program, the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, and the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program. Three major insurers serving Louisiana are Allstate, State Farm, and Farm Bureau. Along with other insurance companies, their agents can be reached to determine the coverage in accordance with policies in force.
The American Red Cross, along with partner organizations, sent volunteers from all 50 states to the Mississippi River and Atchafalaya River areas in advance of the expected devastation. Among their many forms of assistance, The Red Cross is providing temporatry shelter, meal alowances and meals served, clean-up kits, and hygiene items to stricken residents. Many volunteers among the thousands deployed in Louisiana are retired US military. Many charitable and faith-based organizations are providing relief and disaster assistance, such as Catholic Charities and the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
While government, insurance industry, and non-governmental agencies serve, promply contacting appropriate parties for assistance will have the most beneficial impact on personal finance for thousands across Louisiana.