Ida created so much heartbreak and destruction and if you're one of those people, I'm so deeply sorry. In New Jersey, we're licking our wounds and as the adrenaline wears off, we're just wondering where to get help to build it all back and try to prevent it again.  Here is where you should turn for help right now...

Listen to Shannon Holly mornings on 94.3 The Point and download our free 94.3 The Point app.

Residents and business owners in the six hardest-hit counties in NJ (Bergen, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Passaic and Somerset and other areas that may be added to this list) can request assistance online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA(3362) open seven days a week from 7 am – 10 pm.  This is a great place to start but there is more.

You may be eligible for federal programs including low-cost loans for property losses not covered by insurance, grants for temporary shelter and home repairs. Now this is key, a combination of state, local and non-profits are teaming up to offer funding for emergency work and also repairs from damages caused by the storms.  If your county is not included in the list above keep checking for updates because additional counties may be added as the damage continues to be assessed.

This is the biggest piece of information for me, I'm terrified this will happen again. We have to put things in place to protect what we rebuild.  Thankfully, New Jersey residents and businesses throughout our state will be eligible for federal funds earmarked to help cover the costs of preventing similar damage with future storms.  First things first, register for FEMA disaster assistance and report your damages by going to  NJ.GOV/IDA as soon as possible.

If you have a small business you'll want to know that Gov. Murphy announced that one million dollars is available for financial relief for small businesses that got hit my the storm. You can read about that here.

So the big question right now coming from lots of people is, what do you do if you suffered damage but you are not in a flood zone and your home was damaged? I mean, if you are not in a flood zone, you are not even required to have flood insurance.  What happens then?
  • Call your insurance company to go over the details of your exact coverage.  That's what I did and even though I did not have flood insurance (which would not have helped me anyway...I'll post more about that in another article) I was still able to get some help because our sump pump stopped working. If you had a  downspout brake that could qualify for a partial payout too.  I leaned a lot though this, flood insurance policies have different rules than home policies. If a home or flood adjuster says damage isn't covered, don't take no as an answer so fast.  Get an independent professional to chime in before giving up on collecting insurance benefits.
  • Call 2-1-1 in New Jersey from any phone at anytime.  You'll get a dedicated operator who will connect you with community resources and help you know where to get financial help for recovery.  You an also text your zip code to 898-211 and they will respond by sending you information about resources in your community.  I did this myself.
  • Take Pictures: Before you start cleaning up make sure everything is fully documented.
  •  Inventory Your losses: Put a value on all your damage and costs to repair/clean and replace property, regardless of your insurance situation. Include the item lost, it's location, the condition and age of item, and it's actual cash value to replace it.
  • Dry Everything To Prevent More Damage:  Mold growth will create more expense so act fast!  The fire department can come pump you out which is a HUGE help if it is at that point. Their hoses remove 100 gallons of water per minute.
  •  Mold can develop within 24 to 48 hours of a flood, so remove wet contents, including carpeting and bedding, as soon as possible.  Get the carpet and the padding AWAY FROM THE WALLS.   If an item has been wet for less than 48 hours, it may be salvageable. However, you'll need to decide whether it holds enough monetary or sentimental value to try to do so. Notify your insurance company before removing and disposing of any large or high value items.
  • Keep good records, keep a journal and receipts: If there is repair or remediation work completed prior to an adjuster coming to your home, keep a copy of the invoices and receipts for work which has already been performed and materials purchased. Keep a diary of conversations and all correspondence with insurance, repair, government and other professionals
  • Contractors
    • Make sure any contractor is qualified, licensed, insured to perform the scope of services they are presenting. Check references before signing any contracts for services or hiring vendors.
    • If a vendor shows up at your front door uninvited tell them to beat it. Reputable businesses do not have to do this so they won't.
    • Insist on detailed proposals and estimates, and contracts with clear and reasonable payment schedules.
    • Try to make all payments with a check or credit card.  Do not pay cash.
  •  If you have flood insurance, report your loss immediately to your insurance agent or carrier. Be sure to ask them about advance payments. If you need help finding your insurance agent or carrier, call the National Flood Insurance Program at 877-336-2627.
  • For appliances and electronics, take a photograph of the make, model and serial number.
  • Learn more about starting your recovery with the National Flood Insurance Program at FEMA.gov.

I hope this helps.  Also, don't under-estimate the power of breathing...put one foot in front of the other...and just breathe.

Go to nj.gov for more on government aid and ways to get help.  I'll be following up with an insurance expert so I can post all about the differences between flood insurance and water damage protection though your homeowners policy.  You'll be able to find that on our free 94.3 The Point App today. That will be information that will help you protect your properly going forward. I'm in this with you, we will  be OK. xo

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