The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has denied relief to more than 2,500 disaster victims from the August 2016 flooding in Louisiana because of insufficient proof of homeownership. “Thousands of people live in homes that they don’t own outright because properties were passed on to family members without successions,” the Baton Rouge Area Foundation (BRAF) explained in a press release.

BRAF hopes to reverse this trend through a program that aims to clear property title on flood-damaged homes so disaster victims can become eligible for FEMA funds and other federal grants to rebuild. “This free program will find all potential heirs to the properties and ask them to sign over their ownership—typically small amounts—to the person living in the home,” the BRAF press release stated.

The program will benefit from the use of a smartphone app, which allows homeowners to streamline the data collection required in the title-clearing process. BRAF collaborated with the American Bar Association Center for Innovation and Stanford University Law School to create the app.

Applicants will have to meet certain income eligibility levels, and the property must be the applicant’s primary residence and be located in the qualifying parishes of East Baton Rouge, Livingston or Ascension.

The BRAF program, supported by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, is being overseen by Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, a civil legal aid organization that serves the state’s low-income population. The program is a collaborative effort among the Baton Rouge Bar Foundation, Baton Rouge Bar Association, Louisiana State Bar Association, Louisiana Bar Foundation, Southern University Law Center, LSU Law Center, Louisiana Appleseed, Equal Justice Works, and East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority, the Capital Area United Way, the Greater New Orleans Foundation.

Tom Cook’s article in the Baton Rouge Business Report provides helpful insight on the meaning and application of FEMA’s “substantial damage” standard to Baton Rouge homeowners affected by the August floods. Cook explains that determining “substantial damage” is a bit of “a mystery,” and that online research of the term may prove bewildering.

In short, Cook explains that affected structures are inspected by FEMA representatives who estimate damage to said structures in terms of a damage percentage. Using the percentage rating, FEMA determines an overall building damage calculation. FEMA compiles these determinations of damaged homes and provides them to municipal building departments for use in determining whether to issue a building permit with or without raising the damaged home’s slab elevation–a potentially costly endeavor for affected homeowners.

Ultimately, Cook points out that “the final decision lies with the municipalit[ies],” which Cook describes as having “worked hard to make the process as painless as possible.” Under this framework, Cook believes that very few homes will be rendered worthless due to costly slab elevation requirements.

The Louisiana Recovery Task Force has outlined programs that may help Louisiana companies get back to business following the historic August 2016 flooding.

More than 14,000 businesses were affected by the flooding. The concepts outlined by the Louisiana Task Force include providing banks with certain guarantees to incentive lending; compiling data on consumers and client in affected areas for use by businesses in deciding how to reopen; offering business counseling for navigating the recovery process; and giving small grants and loans to revive business operations. These programs would supplement the disaster loans offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Economic injury disaster loans through the SBA have a current deadline of May 15, 2017.

The programs outlined by the Louisiana Recovery Task Force may require additional funding from Congress, which has already approved approximately $438 million, $12 million of which is flagged for economic development. Louisiana is seeking approximately $4 billion more from the federal government to aid recovery.

Louisianans in parishes affected by August flooding now have until Monday, Nov.14, 2016, to register for federal disaster assistance. The State of Louisiana and FEMA advise that the deadline to apply for disaster assistance has been extended, so that all eligible residents have enough time to apply for assistance. Federal officials hope this additional time will ensure that everyone affected by the August severe storms and flooding has an opportunity to register for FEMA assistance. The goal is to reach all flood survivors who still need help.

Registration is open to survivors in Acadia, Ascension, Avoyelles, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Evangeline, Iberia, Iberville, Jefferson Davis, Lafayette, Livingston, Pointe Coupee, St. Helena, St. James, St. Landry, St. Martin, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Vermilion, Washington, West Baton Rouge and West Feliciana Parishes.

This new deadline also applies to homeowners, renters and businesses submitting applications for low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

FEMA mitigation specialists will be stationed at the Home Depot at 9460 Cortana Blvd. in Baton Rouge from October 17, 2016 through Oct. 29, 2016 to answer questions, offer home improvement tips, and explain methods to prevent and lessen damage from future disasters. Free reference booklets on protecting your home from flood damage will also be available. More information can be found online.

The deadline to apply for low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for businesses and residents affected by the August 2016 flooding in Louisiana is October 13, 2016 (with the deadline for business physical disaster loans now extended to November 14, 2016). Businesses and private nonprofits may be eligible to borrow up to $2 million for real estate, inventory, and business asset replacement or repair. Homeowners may be eligible to borrow up to $200,000 for real estate replacement or repair, and up to $40,000 for damaged or destroyed personal property.

The SBA is offering the following type of disaster loans:

Economic injury disaster loans through the SBA have a current deadline of May 15, 2017.

Read more on flood recovery assistance for businesses at the Louisiana Economic Development website.

For more information about the SBA’s disaster assistance programs, visit www.sba.gov/disaster, or call the SBA’s disaster customer service center at 1-800-659-2955.

  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) announced that policyholders under the National Flood Insurance Program (“NFIP”)  will be granted a 60-day extension to file a Proof of Loss with supporting documentation for claims related to the August 2016 flooding. This doubled the previous 60-day deadline imposed by the NFIP from the date of the flood event. See the FEMA announcement regarding the 60-day extension here.
  • A Proof of Loss package should include an itemization of damaged items, with photographs, receipts, and other supporting documentation evidencing the value of the damaged items. A Proof of Loss is necessary for the NFIP to make payment on a claim. You can read more about a Proof of Loss here.
  • Understanding flood maps can help assess risk for your residence and business. If you do not currently have flood insurance with the NFIP, or would like to learn more about different types of residential and commercial coverage, you can learn more at www.floodsmart.gov, which also contains various policyholder resources.
  • Contact your insurance company or call FEMA with any questions: 1-800-621-FEMA (3362), Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Deadline approaching: Friday, October 7, 2016, is the last day for Baton Rouge homeowners to apply for private property debris removal related to the August flood. The Associated Press reports the program allows for debris collection to go beyond curbside and into yards, with a signed right of entry agreement from a homeowner. Renters need their landlord to complete the application. The program is only available in the city of Baton Rouge and unincorporated parts of East Baton Rouge Parish. The cities of Baker, Central and Zachary are overseeing their own debris removal efforts. The city-parish government says more than 1,150 homeowners have submitted right of entry agreements for the private property debris removal.

In response to the August 2016 flooding event, there have been several articles about the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) regulations, the National Flood Insurance Program (“NFIP”), the base flood elevation requirements relating to a building damaged by flooding, and local government rebuilding requirements.  Please click here to read the client alert that will explain these programs and compliance requirements and the recent developments on the national and local levels, as FEMA and local governments in Louisiana respond to the August 2016 flood event.