Cameras Gone, Damage Remains: Florida CUL Sorts Through Requests For Help

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The four hurricanes that ravaged Florida have long since drifted off the nation's radar screen, but the Florida Credit Union League hasn't forgotten that for many residents of the Sunshine State, the aftermath of the storms continue to take a toll.

"We know that people outside of Florida have already pretty much forgotten about the hurricanes, and we are no longer asking for money, but we do still get a few bucks coming in here and there," said FCUL Spokesman Mark Ivester. "The fact is, we're still going to have more applications [for grants] than we have money for."

The league's Hurricane Relief Fund has collected $866,825 and has disbursed $475,750 with about $391,000 left in the pot. But that money's not just sitting there because the league can't find ways to use it. Like many repairs and clean-up efforts, the money is languishing only because of the slowness of the whole process.

"We have to prioritize how we're going to use this money. We don't want to give someone money for something that they're going to be reimbursed for by their insurance company," Ivester explained. "We're trying to cover only those things that aren't going to be covered by someone else. It's an excruciatingly slow process."

Indeed, it's not uncommon to hear Floridians trying to one-up each other with tales of how long it took to get an adjuster to come evaluate a property-and don't get them started on how long it takes to receive an actual insurance check.

"People here are pretty well-adjusted to this by now. They understand why we're waiting," Ivester related.

A common use for the relief money is to cover the cost of the deductible on a given insurance policy. "That's one of the most common things we're doing," Ivester acknowledged. "The whole idea was to help cover the cost of what isn't being covered by anyone else. And we know that a lot of people out here have been hit by multiple deductibles, and that can add up."

That's because those Floridians who were hit by more than one hurricane had to file separate claims for each of the storms, and with each new claim the deductible starts all over again.

So, if a property racked up $10,000 worth of damage during the first storm and an additional $5,000 during the second storm, and the insurance policy had a $2,000 deductible on it, the property owner doesn't get a single check for $13,000 for the total $15,000 worth of damage minus the $2,000 deductible. Instead, the insurance company cuts one check for $8,000 and a second check for $3,000, for total coverage of $11,000.

And just as the people out here have learned they have to be patient waiting for the process to wend its way through, the league recognizes that some folks may be waiting to apply for the disaster relief funds.

"They have to see what is and isn't going to be covered before they know if they have reason to apply for a grant," Ivester offered. "We're not getting many applications, but we still do have a few trickling in. We haven't put a cut off on it, yet, because we know we're all waiting for the same, slow process."

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