Storms put focus on insurance needs

Published 5:00 am Thursday, May 15, 2003

It was only when they needed it that countless Lincoln Countiansfound their insurance coverage inadequate.

It’s too late for those affected by the storms of early April,but disaster officials are encouraging residents to prepare now forany future bad weather.

Those hardest hit by the lack of insurance coverage were thosewho did not own property but lost most of their belongings,according to Jay Eaker, spokesman for the Federal EmergencyManagement Agency.

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“There were a lot of renters who didn’t have renters insurancefor their contents,” said Eaker. “Also, a lot of homeowners onlyhave what is known as collateral insurance, where they only haveinsurance up to the amount of their loan.”

In the aftermath of the storms, many learned of anotherinsurance need — flood insurance, which is offered through theNational Flood Insurance Program, a part of FEMA.

“Year in and year out, flooding is the leading cause of propertyloss from natural disasters in this country,” said Carlos Mitchell,FEMA’s federal coordinating officer. “But all too often, homeownersand renters learn too late that protection against flood loss isnot part of their normal insurance protection package.”

Flood insurance is available to residents and business ownersthrough private insurance agents in the area. Flood insurance is,however, backed by the federal government.

“Generally, you can insure your home and all its contentsagainst flooding for less than it costs to insure your car,” saidLeon Shaifer, Mississippi’s state coordinating officer.

Homes can be insured for up to $250,000 for the building and upto $100,000 for the contents through a flood damage policy.Non-residential property may be insured up to $500,000.

Flood insurance pays even when no disaster is declared sincestatistically federal disaster declarations are issued in less than50 percent of flooding incidents.

There is a 30-day waiting period before a flood insurance policybecomes effective.


Victims of the severe storms that swept through the area inApril have just one day left to visit the Disaster Recovery Centerin Brookhaven for financial assistance information.

“The recovery center was designed for people who have alreadyapplied for federal and state disaster assistance and havequestions,” said Eaker.

After a noted decrease in visitors to the center, FEMA andMississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) officials havedecided to close the center at 6 p.m. Friday.

Since opening May 5, more than 40 people visited the center,located at the Families First Resource Center at 511 North ChurchStreet.

Eaker said the center was extremely beneficial since 44 of the51 people in Lincoln County who applied for financial assistancevisited the center.

“Sometimes we made them aware of programs they are eligible forthat they may not have known about otherwise,” said Eaker.

Anyone still seeking information about financial assistance cancall the FEMA Helpline at 1-800-621-3362. The speech or hearingimpaired should call 1-800-462-7585.

Also, Disaster Recovery Centers are still located in Jackson andMeridian for those wishing to speak to someone in person ratherthan on the telephone.

The United States Small Business Administration (SBA) willremain open at the North Church Street location through May 22 toassist people with completing their SBA loan applications. Thehours of operation will be 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. each day.