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The Road Ahead for Harvey Survivors

What the disaster recovery process in Texas will look like based on our past experience, and how SBP will work to shrink time between disaster and recovery

SBP BOOTS ON THE GROUND

As water recedes and residents return to their damaged homes, homeowners will be faced with mucking (removing all damaged property from their homes) and gutting (floors, walls, bathrooms). Mold will begin to grow. If homes have roof damage, future rainstorms will cause further damage, requiring major repairs (or total rebuild). SBP has deployed staff and AmeriCorps members to coordinate mucking, gutting, and mold remediation, and is coordinating volunteers to assist with those activities.

UNDERSTANDING MOLD AND REMEDIATION

There will be signs and rumors that say that homeowners will need a “mold certificate” - proof that the property was mold remediated, before beginning to rehabilitate. THIS IS A SCAM. Other scams and inaccurate information will circulate… no, bleach does NOT kill mold on porous surfaces like wood.

(Use a product called “Mold Control” or similar, specifically designed to kill mold.)

FEMA has a helpful “Rumor Control” webpage that identifies and dispels inaccurate rumors and myths that have cropped up in the wake of Harvey.

SBP has a step-by-step mold remediation guide that walks homeowners through the facts and process of effective DIY mold remediation that can save them tens of thousands of dollars over a contractor whose prices will be vastly inflated (upwards of $20,000) due to the law of supply & demand.

Gutting

THE FEMA APPLICATION PROCESS

FEMA will take on an overwhelming amount of claims, and often undercut payouts, not because they mean harm, but because there really is no transparency or consistency as to how they calculate awards. Best case scenario, people will get the max award ($32k), which usually means the home is nearly destroyed. Still, this will not cover their repair needs. This money may run out quickly especially if folks are displaced and need to spend it on hotels and clothing. The process of applying for federal assistance is unclear, and when folks are vulnerable and overwhelmed, it's even harder to understand, and harder still to successfully get the max award. SBP provides downloadable, easy-to-understand guides to navigating this system, with the goal of helping folks maximize their FEMA assistance award. Homeowners need to know that they can appeal FEMA award!! SBP will also set up in-person trainings for businesses, nonprofits, and associations to walk people through this process.

NAVIGATING INSURANCE CLAIMS

Individuals and families with savings and/or flood insurance (and early reports show that not many do), will have the fastest recovery. Those who do not have flood insurance will likely spend most of their FEMA money on hotels, clothing, and food. The state will likely provide immediate funding for FEMA trailers or to pay contractors to bring homes to a "livable state", which is not ideal, but it's the best option for the overwhelming amount of displaced people. SBP has insurance guides to help people understand the process of filing claims and getting prompt payouts.

AVOIDING CONTRACTOR FRAUD

Contractors will flock to hard hit areas of Texas. While most folks are well-intentioned, many will take advantage of the situation, collecting payment and either doing substandard work, or walking away having done no work whatsoever, stealing vast sums of money from their “clients”.  We have seen it time and time again, and it sets impacted homeowners back years from their recovery. If this occurs at scale, it can set the recovery of entire communities and local economies back by years. SBP has crucial resources for avoiding contractor fraud including a guide and a checklist to help homeowners understand how to protect their home and funds. (We partnered with AARP to design these, so they are readable for aging populations.)

A QUICK RESPONSE FROM HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT (HUD)

The state will have to ask congress for a recovery package. Housing and Urban Development will have to approve the funding and plan for disbursement of funds. This process takes on average 1.5 years (for Katrina, 3 years), leaving folks without federal rebuilding dollars for quite some time. This means that many families who don't have the means to rebuild will be displaced (or will live in a gutted house) for a long time. SBP's CEO and National Director of Recovery will work with decision makers and government leaders at the state level to formulate plans that incentivize providing prompt, efficient and predictable recovery for all residents. We've seen success with this in South Carolina, where funds hit the ground in month 13, and in Baton Rouge, where we helped to pass the country's first ever disaster bridge loan program, freeing up philanthropic funds to be reimbursed after federal dollars were released.

COLLECTING DOCUMENTS

In the days and weeks ahead there will be several case management organizations available for those who need help rebuilding to reach out to. Many case management organizations will do client intake, but unfortunately do not do a great job of setting long-term expectations for their clients. Homeowners will need to be their own advocates and push for predictability and follow up.

Clients will need to provide their financial information, home ownership documents, etc before qualifying for many nonprofit or state-funded rebuilding programs. If impacted homeowners begin working on finding these docs or requesting them from their banks, they will be a step ahead. This has been difficult by the sheer scale of this flood.

REBUILDING IN SOUTH TEXAS

SBP's team will open at least one rebuilding office, but likely more. The need is great and vast, and we will take the coming weeks to assess where we are most needed. We will collaborate with other nonprofits to raise their capacity by training them to utilize SBP’s proven effective rebuilding model to address disaster recovery across the state. We'll train these groups not just on our Toyota Production System based rebuilding model, but a number of other tasks critical to efficient recovery, including how to apply for AmeriCorps and other grant programs. Our client services team will identify vulnerable families who cannot afford to be displaced (disabled, elderly, veterans, families with small children), will actively recruit volunteers, and will work to find housing for the many helpers. We will continue to raise funds to support the rebuilding of vulnerable families who are under or uninsured.

Long-term disaster recovery is very expensive, and a delay, inefficient or otherwise prolonged recovery has a devastating human impact. With the support of our partners, donors and volunteers, we can help communities across Texas realize a prompt, efficient and predictable recovery.

Thank you for your support.