Capitol Office: 512.463.0707   |   District Office: 281.485.6565

Friday, September 01 2017

Capitol Review Vol. 5, No. 14

Dear Friends,

 

Please continue to keep our community and state in your thoughts and prayers as we work to recover from the annihilating effects of Hurricane Harvey. This ongoing threat continues to produce devastating flooding all over southeast Texas. Harvey is expected to be the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, equal to the combined cost of Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy. In light of this, I have dedicated this edition of the Capitol Review to provide you with updated information and resources for dealing with this disaster. Please note that events previously scheduled for September (my Town Hall meeting and fundraiser) will be rescheduled for later this year.

 

Below you will find information on:

  • Federal Resources (FEMA, Disaster Assistance)
  • State Resources (Insurance Claims, Consumer Protection, Road Closures, Legal Aid, etc.)
  • Local Resources (County Information, School District Closures, Free School Lunch)
  • Donation & Volunteer Information

 

Surveying some of the damage Harvey's floodwaters have caused.

 

FEDERAL LEVEL INFORMATION & RESOURCES

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
FEMA says people impacted by Hurricane Harvey can start filing for federal assistance now.

Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

 

For more information call 800-621-3362 or click here.

 

Disaster Assistance Improvement Program (DAIP)

DAIP's mission is to provide disaster survivors with information, support, services, and a means to access and apply for disaster assistance through joint data-sharing efforts between federal, tribal, state, local, and private sector partners. The goal is to improve survivor access to disaster information and make applying for disaster assistance easier. FEMA acts as the managing partner.

 

DAIP is an E-Government program. DAIP can help the government provide you with Internet-based technologies that can:

  • Streamline access to services.
  • Make it easy for you to interact with the government.
  • Allow the government to be more efficient, effective, and responsive.

 

Find more information here.

 

STATE LEVEL INFORMATION & RESOURCES

Governor Abbott preliminarily issued a disaster declaration for 58 counties, then requested and was approved for a Presidential Disaster Declaration for 18 counties, including Brazoria. The Governor has now deployed the full 24,000 troops in the National Guard to assist with the response to Hurricane Harvey. Additionally, the Texas Military Department has mobilized approximately 5,400 personnel in support of civil authorities to aid with Harvey.  They are actively supporting civil authorities, performing search and rescue via air and ground, and aiding in shelters across Texas.  There are currently over 32,000 people in shelters across the state, and that number expected to rise. 

 

Sadly, at least 40 people have lost their lives as a result of Harvey. The Texas Division of Emergency Management has asked for help spreading the word about how to track friends and family who are Hurricane Harvey evacuees. The Red Cross has a system for evacuees to register once safe by going here and listing themselves as “Safe and Well”.

 

Drive Texas - Updated Road Conditions

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is actively updating its Drive Texas website to reflect changes to state road conditions throughout Texas. Although the rain has subsided, life-threatening conditions remain in the Houston-Galveston area, and TxDOT maintains that travel is highly discouraged in affected areas until conditions improve. Please remember that it is against the law to drive around barricades at flooded roads.  Turn around don't drown!

 

Find travel conditions and an update of routes affected by Hurricane Harvey here.

 

Texas Department of Insurance (TDI)

Call your insurance agent or company as soon as possible to report property damage. If you need information, have a complaint, or can't locate your agent or company, call TDI's Consumer Help Line at 1-800-252-3439. The Help Line is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and is open on Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

 

TDI has also provided these useful links:

  • My home was damaged by Harvey: A quick guide on filing claims, deadlines, and resources.
  • My car was flooded: Answers to common questions if your car is flooded.
  • Get help in person: Visit a mobile unit location to get help filing a claim.
  • House Bill 1774: The legislation does not change how you file a claim or how your insurer will process your claim.
  • Emergency adjusters: Information on the emergency adjuster application process. To apply, complete Parts I, II, and IX of the application. Fingerprints aren’t required. There is a $20 fee.
  • Workers' compensation: Information for injured employees, health care providers, and workers’ comp carriers. 

 

Find additional information here.

 

Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA)

TWIA is prepared to help policyholders affected by Harvey and would like to provide the following suggestions to help coastal residents recover as quickly as possible.

 

How do I file a claim with TWIA? TWIA policyholders that sustain windstorm damage can file claims by the following methods:

  • Call TWIA’s 24-hour Claims Center at 800-788-8247.
  • Visit their website. Click on "Get Started" to be directed to the Claims Center login webpage, and then click “New User Registration” to create your profile and password if filing online for the first time. Policyholders will need a policy number to register.
  • Contact your agent.

 

What do I do when I return home? TWIA advises policyholders to concentrate on protecting their property once they return home and a claim has been filed. Make temporary or minor repairs to protect property from further damage. Follow these guidelines:

  • Take photos of the damage and keep receipts and records of payment for any temporary repairs.
  • Do not begin making permanent repairs until an assigned adjuster or representative has made contact and inspected the property (if applicable).
  • Be wary of out-of-state contractors who show up at your door unexpectedly. Check with the Better Business Bureau for a history of complaints.
  • Understand the local windstorm building code requirements for your area and contact the TDI Windstorm Inspections Program to schedule an inspection for applicable repairs.

Call 800-788-8247 or visit their website.

 

Texas Fair Plan (TFPA)
TFPA’s mission is to efficiently provide essential residential property insurance products and services for eligible Texas policyholders when no one else will. In 1995, the Texas Legislature enacted legislation which authorized the commissioner of insurance to establish TFPA to deliver residential property insurance to Texas residents in areas designated by the commissioner as underserved.

 

For the fastest service, policyholders and their agents can report claims 24-hours a day, 7-days a week by calling 800-979-6440.  Policyholders and their agents can also report a loss by visiting the TFPA Claims Center and accessing this online form. Each policyholder is assigned a Claims Examiner to guide them through the claims process.

 

TFPA claims can be turned in by phone in English at 877-786-5665 or Spanish at 866-443-6738.

 

Free Legal Services
When disasters strike Texas, the State Bar serves as a clearinghouse for disaster response resources for the public and attorneys. The State Bar of Texas will offer a free legal and disaster relief resources hotline for Hurricane Harvey survivors.

 

For more information, visit their website or call 800-504-7030.

 

Texas Office of the Attorney General (OAG)

The OAG has activated the Consumer Emergency Team. This office is designated to receive consumer complaints relating to any price gouging activity that citizens encounter. The team is also monitoring social media regarding this problem. The OAG has three teams of investigators dedicated to handling complaints.

 

Report price gouging here.

 

Disaster Unemployment Assistance

The Texas Workforce Commission  (TWC) will begin accepting applications for their Disaster Unemployment Assistance Program. If you lost your job because of Hurricane Harvey, you can apply for unemployment benefits online here. Due to the impact to mail delivery, TWC encourages you to select direct deposit as your payment method.

 

Find more information on the program here.

 

Driver License & Vehicle Registration
The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) will provide a no-cost replacement DL or ID card for residents, provided they had a current Texas DL or ID card (replacement identification would normally cost $11). Customers living in the affected counties are encouraged to bring whatever identity and residency documentation they have in their possession. Eligible cardholders will need to visit a driver license office in person to obtain a free Texas DL or ID replacement. 

 

Please note: Since DPS driver license offices have been impacted by flooding as well, please check the website prior to visiting an office to ensure it is open.

 

Governor Abbott has ordered the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TxDMV) to suspend requirements for vehicle titling and registration for the next 45 days in the 58 counties listed in his disaster declaration. Vehicle titling and registration expirations are being suspended in order to relieve that burden upon Texans. Law enforcement will not issue citations for expired registration in affected counties until October 16, 2017.

 

Find DPS and TxDMV offices near you.

 

Free Admission to State Parks for Evacuees

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) will waive state park entrance fees to evacuees seeking shelter from Hurricane Harvey. Anyone seeking shelter can call the Texas State Parks Reservation line at 512-389-8900 to reserve a space at available parks out of the path of the storm. TPWD recommends that evacuees relocate to sites as far north and west as possible. The public can check for park closures on the Texas State Parks alert map on the TPWD website.  

 

Find park information here.

 

House Bill 1774

There has been a huge amount of misinformation circulating on social media about the impact of HB 1774 (the hailstorm bill) as it relates to the catastrophic events we are experiencing due to Hurricane Harvey. Below are the facts of what this bill does.

 

HB 1774 does not change the insurance claims process. A person making a claim with their insurance company after September 1, 2017 will go through the same process as a person making a claim before September 1, 2017.

 

The new law applies only to a lawsuit that is filed against an insurance company by a policyholder when the policyholder’s insurance claim is not timely paid or is underpaid, or when the insurance company acts in bad faith in dealing with the policyholder’s claim. It is important to note that lawsuits are the exception, not the rule.The vast majority of Texans will go through the regular insurance claims process without needing to file a lawsuit.

 

Texans continue to have the strongest consumer protections in the nation against insurance companies. This includes the full recovery of amounts owed under an insurance policy, plus penalty interest, court costs, and attorney fees. Additionally, if the insurance company acts fraudulently or in bad faith, Texans may recover triple the amount of their actual damages, which is unchanged by the new statute.

 

The primary purpose of the new statute is to require written notice of a dispute before a lawsuit is filed. If a lawsuit is filed, it would happen months or years after the initial claim was made with the insurance company. Nothing in the new law passed by the Legislature earlier this year requires that the initial insurance claim be made in writing or by a specific date.

 

Furthermore, the new law will not apply to most claims or lawsuits arising from Harvey, because most of the policyholders’ claims will be for damage caused by flooding. These claims will be made under the federal flood insurance program that is governed by federal law. Similarly, the new law will not apply to lawsuits pursued against the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA), which is subject to an entirely different statute governing post-disaster lawsuits. 

 

The new law is designed to do two important things:

  • Discourage the feeding frenzy by lawyers and contractors following natural events that has occurred in Texas over the past several years. These unscrupulous actors have taken advantage of thousands of hard-working Texans. 
  • Encourage out-of-state insurance adjusters to come work in Texas following a massive disaster like Harvey. In the following days and weeks, it will be critically important for out-of-state adjusters to work in Texas to ensure that insurance claims are evaluated and paid in a timely manner.

In summation, the new law does not affect the claims process. Instead, it affects only the lawsuits that sometimes follow the claims process. Furthermore, it does not create a new deadline for action by policyholders.

 

On the phone with consumers helping them file claims and providing them with information and resources.

 

LOCAL LEVEL INFORMATION & RESOURCES

Please visit the Brazoria County government website and check the county's evacuation map for the latest information on road closures, river flooding information, and other Harvey updates.

 

The Brazoria County Emergency Management Call Center is open and can answer any questions you may have at 979-864-1064.

 

School Closures

Free School Lunch

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller has requested and received authorization from the federal government to allow schools in the areas affected by Hurricane Harvey to provide meals to students at no cost to their families for the entire month of September. Additionally, students displaced by the storm to locations elsewhere in Texas will also qualify for school meals at no cost.

 

Immediately after Hurricane Harvey made landfall, the Texas Department of Agriculture's (TDA) Food and Nutrition staff requested a waiver from the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food & Nutrition Services for meal service times, meal pattern requirements, and the authorization for schools to provide meals to children in disaster areas at no cost through the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. The waiver was approved by the USDA on Aug. 29th.

 

More than 1.3 million students in the 18 counties under the presidential disaster declaration related to Hurricane Harvey are now eligible to receive meals at school at no cost through Sept. 30, 2017. Students who are displaced and move to a different school district not located within the disaster area can still qualify for school meals at no cost to their families.

 

For more information, click here or call 1-877-TEX-MEAL.

 

HOW TO HELP - DONATE & VOLUNTEER

DONATE: Monetary Donations

 

DONATE: In-Kind Donations

  • The Church on Masters Road
    • 6911 Masters Road
    • 832-637-7121
    • Accepting:  donations of all kinds
  • Reflection Bay Event Center
    • 12234 Shadow Creek Parkway, Building 7
    • 281-741-3137
    • Accepting: linens, personal items, NO FOOD or CLOTHING
  • Pearland Animal Hospital
    • 1601 N. Main
    • 281-485-2496
    • Accepting: pet food and pet items such as crates
  • Silverlake Clubhouse
    • 2715 Southwyck
    • 281-272-6375
    • Accepting: non-perishable items, NO CLOTHING
  • Pearland Neighborhood Center
    • 2335 N. Texas
    • Accepting: money and non-perishable items, NO CLOTHING
    • Specifically: toiletries, baby items (formula, snacks, diapers, wipes, meds, binkies), food, non-perishables, cleaning products (mops, clorox, brooms, 409, etc.), and trash bags.
  • Pat Griffin Realty
    • 2640 Broadway, Suite 105
    • 281-485-8375
    • Accepting: donations of all kinds
    • People in need can choose from clothing items at this location. Please be sure to sort your clothing donations (men's, women's, and then kids/toddler/baby by size). If you have multiple pairs of shoes in one bag please tie the shoe strings of each pair together.
  • First Church Pearland
    • 1850 Broadway
    • 281-992-4538
    • Accepting: donations of all kinds

 

Working to coordinate volunteer efforts in our community.

 

VOLUNTEER

 

While this storm has been devastating, I have been humbled by our community coming together to help each other and am incredibly proud to be a Texan and an American.

 

 

If you need assistance on any state-related issue, please contact my Pearland office at (281) 485-6565 or my Capitol office at (512) 463-0707, or email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

 

Thanks for reading, and God Bless Texas!

 

 

Ed Thompson
District 29

 

 

Capitol Office: E2.506                                                                    

P.O.Box 2910                                                                       

Austin, Texas 78768                                                              

(512) 463-0707        

 

District Office:      

2341 N. Galveston, Suite 120

Pearland, Texas 77581

(281) 485-6565 

 

 

Connect With Ed

Sign up for the Capitol Review mailing list