Government Assistance Guide for Harvey Victims
While recovering from a disaster is never easy, the Texas Independent Automobile Dealers Association has compiled a list of resources to assist dealers as they work with their customers to address their vehicle needs.
The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles
The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles has put together a GUIDE to make repairing or replacing flood-damaged vehicles as painless as possible. The information below will be helpful to assist your customers dealing with the loss of vehicles.
First, the car will need to be surveyed for damage. Warn your customer to be very cautious when doing so, and don't let them start the car until a mechanic has looked it over. Have them take pictures of the vehicle at every angle (including the interior, trunk, and engine) to submit to their insurance company and any government assistance program they apply to.
Secondly, find out if insurance will cover it. Comprehensive plans will if they were in place before the hurricane hit, but baseline liability plans will not. If the customer does not have comprehensive insurance, skip ahead.
Customers with comprehensive insurance should file a claim with their provider as soon as possible, complete with pictures of the damage. The claims process will likely take longer than usual due to the high volume of similar disaster claims being filed. If the insurance company does not cover the full cost of repairs to the vehicle, the customer may still be eligible for federal aid to help with any outstanding costs.
Federal Emergency Management Agency
If the customer has liability insurance, they are eligible for federal disaster assistance. This can be an intimidating and frustrating task for most, you may want to assist your customers if you are staffed to do so.
Anyone applying for disaster assistance from the federal government needs to apply with FEMA at DisasterAssistance.gov or at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362)
Once registered with FEMA, customers with liability insurance should apply for a low-interest, long-term disaster loan through the Small Business Administration (SBA). In these times, the SBA mostly deals in the up-to-$200,000 loans for losses to primary homes not covered by insurance, but they also have an up-to-$40,000 loan available to repair or replace clothing, furniture, appliances, and cars. This will likely be the best option for customers without comprehensive coverage.
Small Business Administration
While some customers may be eligible for a SBA loan, disaster loans are also available to business owners.
Questions and applications to the SBA Disaster Loan Assistance program can be submitted to https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela or 1-800-659-2955.
Customers can also mail applications to:
Processing and Disbursement Center
14925 Kingsport Road
Fort Worth, Texas 76155
If for whatever reason a customer does not qualify for an SBA loan, they may still qualify for a grant from FEMA. However, they must first go through the SBA loan application process before they can be considered for this grant.
Note: Have your customer keep extensive documentation proving the damage to the car was inflicted by the storm, as well as any receipts, estimates, or bills of repair/replacement costs to provide the government for financial assistance.
Other Important Information
Customers with a homeowner's insurance policy should be encouraged to ask their insurance agent if their plan covers damage to their vehicle, especially if it was parked on the property at the time the hurricane hit.
Finally, make sure you, your customers and your employees are safe in handling, disposing and repairing flood vehicles. The Coordinating Committee for Automotive Repair has published a Hurricane Harvey white paper to assist.