There are things we often don’t want to talk about— but need to know, including insurance and legal aid. Not many people enjoy getting insurance, but it’s becoming more and more necessary as we continue to experience stronger and more frequent disasters. 

However, even these recovery processes can be taxing and even more painful than the disaster itself. As we venture out of our safe places and repair what was damaged, we’re often left on our own to navigate what can be a confusing process with all the terms and legalities that come along with litigation. Although the situation may seem bleak in the immediate aftermath, there are organizations and groups to help you recover. 

Our guests, United Policyholders Founder, Amy Bach, Esq., Disaster Relief Attorney for Legal Aid of Sonoma County, Kendall Jarvis Esq., and CEO of Saint Bernard Project/SBP, Zack Rosenburg share how their organizations are helping people get the help they deserve, the factors that contribute to underinsurance, how to navigate financial decisions in the midst of a traumatic event, the mechanisms and processes that take place before funds are released, and the socio-economic and racial implication of reimbursements. Tune in and discover resources you can tap into for long-term recovery.  

 

“Insurance is part of the spectrum so our roadmap to recovery includes personal finance decision making.” -Amy Bach, Esq.

 

“Take one step at a time. Some days, you are going to be able to make great strides, other days, you’re going to want to stay in bed.” -Kendall Jarvis, Esq.

“We can’t just tell these people ‘good luck, have a nice life’. We will do what we know how to do well—building houses and we’ll go raise money for them.”  -Zack Rosenburg

 

 

 

Highlights:

  • 01:31: Season 1 Ep 7&8— How to Navigate Insurance Before, During, and After a Disaster with Amy Bach
  • 05:38: Season 2 Ep 16—How to Provide Legal Aid to Disaster Survivors with Kendall Jarvis, Esq.
  • 10:06: Season 3 Ep 10— How to Persevere Through the Turbulence of Disaster Recovery with Zack Rosenburg

 

Tweets:

There are three things we need to focus on while dealing with the aftermath of a disaster- insurance, legal aid, and rebuilding rights. Learn how to navigate these 3 critical post-disaster recovery components with @AfterTheFireUSA CEO @JenGrayThompson, Founder of @uphelp Amy Bach, Esq., the Legal Aid for Sonoma County, @therealkjarvis, and @SBPUSA Co-Founder Zack Rosenburg. 

#Recover #Rebuild #Reimagine #NorthBay #podcast #wildfire #disaster #AfterTheFire #newseason #Season3 #HowToDisaster #Take5  #insurance #undersinsurance #financialdecisions #trauma #legalaid #reimbursements #longtermrecovery 

 

Quotes: 

01:48: “Prescriptive is the keyword because there’s no one path that works for everybody.” -Amy Bach, Esq.

03:05: “You have insurance and we want you to get every dime, we want to help you get through the process as painlessly as possible. But we need you to be realistic about the fact that insurance companies are not social workers… they’re business.” -Amy Bach, Esq. 

03:59: “Insurance is part of the spectrum so our roadmap to recovery includes personal finance decision making.” -Amy Bach, Esq.

05:11: “We do go beyond just insurance. We are looking at that holistic long-term recovery— insurance and rehousing is what it really is.” -Amy Bach, Esq.

05:54: “When you’re not a member of the community of survivors that’s impacted, there’s an easy assumption that you have insurance…. But one thing we learned prettyquickly is that at least 85% of people in our community were underinsured.” -Kendall Jarvis, Esq.

09:22: “The more vulnerable you are going in, the harder it is to navigate and the less time you have to make these decisions.” -Kendall Jarvis, Esq.

09:30: “When making these financial decisions up against a very traumatic emotional experience, a lot of people either cannot do it or they go the opposite way and they ignore their mental health because they feel like they just need to push forward.” -Kendall Jarvis, Esq.

09:49: “Take one step at a time. Some days, you are going to be able to make great strides, other days, you’re going to want to stay in bed.” -Kendall Jarvis, Esq.

11:03: “We can’t just tell these people ‘good luck, have a nice life’. We will do what we know how to do well—building houses and we’ll go raise money for them.”  -Zack Rosenburg

14:33: “Reimbursement only works for people who have money. There are socio-economic, and racial equity implications of this.” -Zack Rosenburg

 

Meet Amy:

Amy BachAmy Bach, Esq., a nationally recognized expert on insurance loss and recovery, has been a professional advocate for insurance policyholders since 1984 and an attorney since 1989. While practicing insurance regulatory law and representing clients in litigation matters, she co-founded United Policyholders in 1991. Bach migrated from the private practice of law in 2005 to become the organization’s full-time Executive Director and primary spokesperson; shaping and overseeing the Roadmap to Recovery™, Roadmap to Preparedness, and Advocacy and Action programs. She is frequently interviewed in print and broadcast media, and the author of numerous legal and consumer publications including “The Disaster Recovery Handbook,“WISE UP: The Savvy Consumer’s Guide to Buying Insurance,” and tips and guides in the “UP Claim Help Library”. Recognized by Money Magazine as a Money Hero, Bach has served as a public policy advisor to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners since 2009 and is in her second term as an appointed member of the Federal Advisory Committee on Insurance. She also currently serves on the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Disaster Preparedness and Response.

 

Meet Kendall:

 

Kendall Jarvis recently completed law school and graduated as Salutatorian with a Juris Doctorate and Masters of Law. Currently, Kendall is the Disaster Relief Attorney for Legal Aid of Sonoma County. Kendall is also a certified Mediator and dedicates her free time to volunteering within her community.

Connect with the Legal Aid of Sonoma:

 

Meet Zack:

 

Zack is the co-founder and CEO of Saint Bernard Project/SBP, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to shrink the time between disaster and recovery. As an advocate for those impacted by disaster, Zack advises policymakers around the country on best practices in disaster resilience, helping improve the nationwide framework of both disaster preparedness and response. In his time as CEO, he has grown SBP into a nationwide organization focused on rebuilding post-disaster, advising nonprofits on best practices in the field of post-disaster relief, and educating community members and elected officials about disaster preparedness and recovery. Among the innovative SBP programs that Zack has designed include: Opportunity Housing, an innovative blight eradicating/affordable housing program that turns blighted properties into well-built affordable housing; and Disaster Resilience and Recovery Lab, which among other things, shares SBP’s learnings and model with at-risk and disaster-impacted communities.

Connect with Saint Bernard Project (SBP):

 

Transcription:

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Welcome to Season 3 of the How to Disaster Podcast where we help you recover, rebuild and reimagine. During this season, we will be releasing Take 5 shorter episodes that highlight some of our past guests speaking about similar issues, themes, topics we wanted to do this. So that perhaps would be easier if you only have a few minutes, but you wanted to connect with these focused episodes and guests that you could condense all their messages into one smaller bite sized piece. 

One of the things that we know about disasters is that we really have to meet people where they’re at. And sometimes, where you’re at is you only have five minutes. We’re very excited for the 3rd Season. We’ve got great guests, wonderful information and content about how to actually help get your community through to the other side, so thank you for joining us. 

And if you wish to find out more, please visit our homepage at afterthefireusa.org. Consider giving us a like or follow if you liked this podcast, we really appreciate it, and thank you for your time.

 

From Season 2, Episodes 7 & 8: A Two Part Episode, How to Navigate Insurance Before, During and After a Disaster. Amy Bach, The Founder and Executive Director of United Policyholders.

 

“Prescriptive is the keyword because there’s no one path that works for everybody.” -Amy Bach, Esq.

 

Amy Bach: Structure is the key word because there’s no one path that works for everybody, and that’s what we have learned over the years. I’ve not seen a magic wand yet. I’ve seen people say, oh, I got lucky, my adjuster was really nice, and they cut me a check, no strings attached, and I just took that check. I went on and I didn’t have to deal with the insurance company anymore. That happens all the time. Sometimes, insurance companies come through great. Our goal is to have, of course, them all come through great all the time. I don’t think that’s ever going to happen. Because the reality is that the insurance companies have a very serious kind of conflict of interest when it comes to large losses. Because the auto claims 5000 bucks, no problem, out the door, we’re done. You want a million dollars out of an insurance company, you’re gonna have to jump through some hoops. And we are here to help people jump through those hoops. If the hoops are too big, or unreasonable, or unfair, we try to remove them. And we’re here to give people, our tagline is empowering the uninsured. 

 

“You have insurance and we want you to get every dime, we want to help you get through the process as painlessly as possible. But we need you to be realistic about the fact that insurance companies are not social workers… they’re business.” -Amy Bach, Esq.

 

So you have a pretty specific focus. You have insurance, we want you to get every dime. We want to help you get through the paint process as painlessly as possible, but we need you to be realistic about the fact that insurance companies, they’re not social workers, their ads are ads. They don’t have a magic wand, they are not your neighbor, they are not your friend. They’re a business, and they have shareholders, and they have their own nut. They’ve got to pay their employees. So they’ve got shareholders that they’re responsible to, they’ve got their own financial needs, they need to to meet, and then they have their policyholders, their customers. Those are the three masters that insurance companies serve.

 

“Insurance is part of the spectrum so our roadmap to recovery includes personal finance decision making.” -Amy Bach, Esq.

 

Insurance is only part of the spectrum, so our the roadmap to recovery includes personal finance decision making. So we have all these CPAs and certified financial planners that are our partners, and we’re building these partnerships because we’re looking for those CPAs that are kind of like our lawyer volunteers. I’m not going to ask a CPA to do a thousand free tax returns for disaster survivors. That’s not realistic, and they’re not going to do a good job anyway. But maybe one or two, or maybe they can teach and they can give guidance, and then they can train other CPAs on like, what are the special rules for casualty losses? So we’re doing that, and the piece that I think really I’m looking forward to doing more with you as it relates to the insurance gaps financing, and the whole like, how do you avoid getting into a hole where you hire a builder and he flakes? Or as wonderful as my orange station is, even though we’ve been around for 30 years, you go into a community, they’ve never heard of us. And you’re an insurance company. The reason that we promote the roadmaps recovery brand is because we do go beyond just insurance. We are looking at that holistic long term recovery. And the reason that we help stand up a long term recovery group, or why we use grant funds to have somebody on our team participate in a long term recovery group is because insurance kind of touches on all these other things, and it’s all kind of related. It’s insurance, and rehousing is what it really is.

 

“We do go beyond just insurance. We are looking at that holistic long-term recovery— insurance and rehousing is what it really is.” -Amy Bach, Esq.

 

From Season 2, Episode 16: How to Provide Legal Aid to Survivors. The Lead Disaster Relief Attorney of Legal Aid Sonoma, Kendall Jarvis.

 

“When you’re not a member of the community of survivors that’s impacted, there’s an easy assumption that you have insurance…. But one thing we learned pretty quickly is that at least 85% of people in our community were underinsured.” -Kendall Jarvis, Esq.

 

Kendall Jarvis: I think one important thing to point out is that when you’re not a member of the community of survivors that’s impacted, there’s an easy assumption that you have insurance. That means that you have adequate insurance that you’re going to be able to rebuild, that you can do all of that. I know, you’ve talked about this on the show before so I won’t go down that road too far. But one thing we learned pretty quickly is that at least 85% of people in our community were underinsured, and many of those severely underinsured, especially in the more vulnerable aspects of the community that was lost. So for example, the Coffee Park, 60% of the people that live there were renters. So landlords don’t have the additional buffer of having a personal property policy attached where maybe you can rebuild your home if you use your personal property, and your dwelling coverage together, and you figure out how to furnish it later. But a landlord policy doesn’t have that. So we saw a huge loss of property that was incredibly valuable to our community, because we have so many renters. And then we saw in addition to that, that there’s an expectation that people would have first last in security.

 

“The more vulnerable you are going in, the harder it is to navigate and the less time you have to make these decisions.” -Kendall Jarvis, Esq.

 

You bring up a good point. Your insurance contract at least in California for a homeowner’s fire related insurance policy, we’ll say that you have 12 months, if there’s a declared disaster, federally or statewide, it extends to 24. Now, the law has changed. And it says you have at minimum that 24 months with a possible extension of 12 additional months. So in theory, you can get 36 months at this point. And generally, the insurance commissioner comes out and says, hey, this is really crappy for this community, we really need this help. Please do that. And I think that’s what you’re referring to, because insurance companies were like, okay, we’re not gonna have any questions about this 12 month thing. We all agree that’s how the law is interpreted in California, which was great. And now, that’s extended further, which is also great, and something that our agency definitely advocated for. But it just goes to show that that’s still not long enough. I mean, I think anyone you talk to you about insurance would say, that needs to be at least five years. 

 

“When making these financial decisions up against a very traumatic emotional experience, a lot of people either cannot do it or they go the opposite way and they ignore their mental health because they feel like they just need to push forward.” -Kendall Jarvis, Esq.

 

And I think secondarily going to FEMA, we have the same issue, or human support really here for 18 months, there are potential extensions, but we really significantly advocated for those extensions. And we basically got three additional months, and a lot of communities didn’t get any additional months. So what the more volume basically comes back to the thing that we started with, the more vulnerable you are going in, the harder it is to navigate, the less time you have to make these decisions. And when you’re making these financial decisions up against a very traumatic emotional experience, now a lot of people either cannot do it, or they go the opposite way and they ignore their mental health because they feel like they just need to push through and just need to push forward, and one step at a time. One step whenever you can make one. Some days, people are going to be able to make great strides. Other days, you’re going to want to stay in bed, and it obviously poses a lot of stress on the family household and family unit.

 

“Take one step at a time. Some days, you are going to be able to make great strides, other days, you’re going to want to stay in bed.” -Kendall Jarvis, Esq.

 

From Season 3, Episode 10: How to Persevere Through theTurbulence of Disaster Recovery. The founder of St. Bernard Project, Zack Rosenberg.

Zack Rosenburg: I was a former law teacher and public defender, and Liz was an educator. We worked with poor people and to see folks who had achieved an element of American success. These were not classically generationally indigent. These are people who owned homes. We’re taught in America, if you work hard, you own a home. Things can get but so bad. And that’s what we thought, at least. And here are these folks, teachers, police officers, veterans, steel workers, like the heart of America, the lucky of whom were living in attics, and cars, and garages, and others are jammed 5, 6, 7, 8 to FEMA trailers. 

 

“We can’t just tell these people ‘good luck, have a nice life’. We will do what we know how to do well—building houses and we’ll go raise money for them.”  -Zack Rosenburg

 

So after two weeks, we thought we can’t just tell these people good luck, have a nice life. I will do what we know how to do well. See us building houses and we’ll go raise money for them back in Washington, DC. And when all the big groups, and this is I think a moment for us, said, when’s the building going to start? We’ll raise some money for you. Well, listen, disaster recovery has been done the same way for 30 years, now it’s 47 years. Although we don’t do it the same way. We’ve done it the same way for 30 years, can’t change, building the third phase, got a baton order. And so we kindly maybe, maybe not, pound sand, we’ll figure it out. It’s not good enough. We had no grand plans, like we didn’t know anything. We’re just young and maybe a little bit entitled. And so fast forward, we moved to New Orleans, we found this woman who had time before she went to the Peace Corps. She became the volunteer coordinator and soon America’s greatest asset, which is our commitment to others just solving problems, inundated us tons of volunteers, habitat and ended up giving us tools, and off we went building houses. And so within the first 14 months, we had completely rebuilt eight houses. While the traditional long term recovery committee apparatus well intended, rule followers, rules they didn’t even have to follow like self imposed rules, rule followers, and allocated funding for 13 houses. So that’s how the SBP got our start.

You asked about the bridge loan. So I know you know, but for the listeners, the first federal money that comes out the door is the FEMA money that is supposed to come out, all get to people in a fair amount in the first six months, takes a year. Too many people don’t get what they deserve or give up because of a bureaucratic, cumbersome process. We can talk about that separately. The next moment when the federal dollars arrive is when the HUD CDBG funds get there. That takes 16 to 30 months until funds start flowing to people. And there’s a reason HUD for Congress has to allocate their appropriate funds, allocate funds to HUD, HUD has to publish rules for how the funds can be spent. states and cities have to come up with a plan to work within those rules that HUD has to approve. And then once the plan is approved, cities and states can hire contractors. 

 

“Reimbursement only works for people who have money. There are socio-economic, and racial equity implications of this.” -Zack Rosenburg

 

There are three mechanisms by and large that HUD supports and permits to fund rebuilding or for dollars to flow through rebuilding. One is the state or city will pick a contractor for the homeowner. Two is the homeowner picks the contractor and gets them certified to participate in the program. Three was reimbursement. You spend your own money as soon as you can, and then you apply for reimbursement once the programs are running. Pans down by multiples. The most efficient, least expensive gets to most people. Model of distribution is reimbursement. However, by its very definition, reimbursement only works for people who have money. There are socio economic and racial equity implications of this. So there’s a great model, but it only works for people who have money. 

SBP is launching in Louisiana a bridge loan program that will raise a fund. We’ll lend funds to people who are clearly going to qualify for the eventual CDBG program. We’ll steward their construction, and when funds are available, they’ll apply and they’ll reimburse the fund. We’re going to pilot it in Louisiana. It seems to think this is an appropriate mechanism. The governor of Louisiana is thrilled diet, and we think that this will be a game changer. Not for SBP, but for the industry. We expect after sufficient proof points, bigger players to come in and push this out of the way and truly get to scale.

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