(credit: CBS)

Typically homeowner’s and business insurance policies don’t cover losses from flooding, so it’s important to have extra flood insurance. You can obtain flood insurance through many insurance providers or through the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program.

Generally, there is a 30-day waiting period before an insurance policy takes effect, so if you purchased your policy too late, you might not be covered.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce a few important flood insurance facts for consumers to keep in mind:

  • A standard flood policy only covers structural, furnace, water heater and air conditioner damage; flood-debris clean-up and floor surface damage such as carpeting and tile. If you want to protect the contents of your home, that requires a separately contents policy.
  • Homeowners should also be aware that in order for sump pump failures or sewer back-ups to be covered, they should opt for a rider on their homeowners’ policy.
  • Basements and portable storage units also are not covered by flood insurance.

Click here for more information from the Minnesota Department of Commerce on how insurance will (or will not) cover your home, business or even vehicle after a flood.

Flood Zones
Everyone lives in a flood zone but your risk of flooding varies from low- to high-risk areas. How can you determine the risk for your home or business? Fill out the one-step flood risk profile at Floodsmart.gov to determine your risk and how you might or might not be covered.

How Do I Receive Flood Disaster Aid?
If FEMA announces that businesses and homes affected by the floods qualify for federal aid, here is some help on what to do next.

Two Basic Questions
The first thing you need to do is answer a couple of basic questions:

1) Is your home or business within the declared major disaster zone?

2) Did your home or business sustain uninsured damage from the flooding?

If you can answer yes to both of those questions, you will need to contact FEMA to begin the process of requesting federal aid. To begin this process you should have as much documented proof of your damage as possible. Documentation may include photos, video, receipts, estimates, etc.

Contacting FEMA
You can contact FEMA by telephone or online. The disaster phone line is 1-800-621-FEMA; if you are hearing or speech impaired call 1-800-462-7585. The phone lines are manned Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m., and on weekends from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

The FEMA website to begin this process is DisasterAssistance.gov.

Info To Have Ready
Before applicants call or go online, they should gather the following basic information to speed the process:

  • Social Security number
  • Telephone number where he or she can be reached
  • Address of the damaged property
  • Current mailing address
  • Brief description of disaster-related damages and losses
  • Insurance information
  • Direct deposit information to help speed delivery of funds

Types Of Assistance Available
If a federal disaster is declared, the following types of assistance could be available to qualified residents:

  • Temporary Housing
  • Grants for Housing Repairs or Replacement
  • Grants for Other Flood Related Expenses
  • Tax Relief
  • Legal Assistance
  • Crisis Counseling
  • Unemployment Assistance (see below)
  • Low-Interest Small Business Loans
  • Low-Interest Home & Property Loans

To qualify for the various forms of housing assistance, the damage to your home can’t be covered by insurance. Further specific restrictions will be detailed in the disaster aid application process.

What Is Not Covered
Any damage to your home that is covered by your insurance policy does not qualify for disaster aid. Also, if the damage is not to your primary residence or you were not living in the home at the time of the flooding, you likely will not qualify.

Getting Started
If you think you might qualify for assistance, call the phone number above or visit DisasterAssistance.gov to get started. You do NOT need to wait for an insurance appraisal to begin the disaster assistance request process.

Unemployment Assistance
If the flooding resulted in you being unemployed for more than one week, you may be eligible for disaster unemployment insurance. Click here for more information.