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    As we have for almost 50 years, we remain focused on our mission:

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  • Recovering from Hurricane Sally — Update from Congressman Matt Gaetz - 09/21/2020

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    September 21, 2020

    Hello, Friends —

    As Northwest Florida continues our recovery efforts from Hurricane Sally, we are expecting FEMA to make a Major Disaster Declaration for our state. This will likely happen soon, as FEMA has already issued one for Alabama.

    In this interim time, however, it is important to start preparing your claim documentation in order to apply for FEMA assistance.

    Here’s how to begin:

    • Document the waterlines of the flooding damage that occurred in your home or on your property. The more addresses to indicate water damage from the hurricane will increase the individual assistance you receive from FEMA. Please also list any furniture or other belongings you have lost in the storm.
    • Do not wait to clean up the damage to your residence. After taking photos, immediately start removing water from your home, as mold grows quickly.
    • Contact your insurance provider and file your claims individually. You will need your insurance claim information prior to applying for FEMA assistance. Please do not apply to FEMA before the declaration is made — the system will not accept applications until a disaster has been declared. Please wait to file with FEMA until after the declaration has been approved.
    • After the determination from your insurance company on the settlement has been received, you can file with FEMA. Please note:
      • You MUST give FEMA the settlement information from your insurance when filing for assistance.
      • Call 1-800-621-3362, go to disasterassistance.gov, or use the FEMA app to file for assistance with FEMA, when it is time to do so.





    • Contact your insurer as soon as possible to report the damage. Have your policy number ready. Damage associated with wind and other severe weather is typically covered under a standard homeowners, renters or business policy. Property owners with flood damage need to contact their flood insurer to file a flood-related claims. If you have flood damage but do not have flood insurance, federal disaster assistance may be available in the form of grants and loans if a federal disaster is declared.
    • Photograph or videotape the damage to share with your insurer and keep a copy for your records.
    • Make temporary repairs if it is safe to do so. If there are holes in your roof or your windows are broken, be sure to cover them as quickly as possible to prevent further damage.
    • Save receipts for any materials you purchase to assist with repairs. You may submit them to your insurer for reimbursement.
    • Do not throw away any damaged items until an adjuster visits your home. Keep in mind that due to COVID-19 and social distancing, you may collaborate with an adjuster via a video call instead of in-person.
    • Many standard homeowners and renters policies provide reimbursement of additional living expenses when the property is determined to be uninhabitable due to damage. This provision helps pay for things like temporary housing, restaurant meals, overnight parking and laundry service. Check with your insurer or agent for a list of what your policy will cover.
    • Watch out for crooked contractors and third parties posing as contractors who often go door to door after disasters preying on homeowners in desperate need of repairs.



    • Shovel or scrape mud off floors, furniture, and walls before the mud dries. Then hose down the walls with clean water, starting from the ceiling.
    • Major appliances, such as refrigerators and stoves, can be washed and dried completely. In most cases, they will not be damaged unless they were operating at the time the water covered them.
    • Diluted chlorine bleach can be used to clean household items, appliances, walls, and floors and will help control odors.
    • Wood furniture should be dried outdoors, but not in direct sunlight. Remove drawers and other moving parts before they dry.
    • Food utensils and equipment should be washed thoroughly and sterilized before using. Any food that is open and exposed to flood waters should be discarded.



    • Be cautious about starting a vehicle that has been exposed to flood waters, and if your vehicle is missing report it to the police.
    • If the water got above the floorboards, or the seats are wet, do not try to start the car. The electrical system is the most sensitive to water damage and trying to start the car could cause more damage.
    • Open the hood and check the air filter. If it is wet, do not try to start the car.
    • Report the loss to your auto insurer and protect the car from further damage by covering any broken windows.

    What to expect after filing a homeowners claim relating to a hurricane

    The flood insurance claims process

    Emergency financial preparedness toolkit



    The Small Business Administration is making low-interest disaster loans available to businesses and residents of areas affected by Hurricane Sally. Small businesses (and most private nonprofit organizations) in the following counties are eligible to apply for SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans: Escambia, Okaloosa and Santa Rosa in Florida; Clarke, Conecuh, Covington, Monroe and Washington in Alabama, and George, Greene and Jackson counties in Mississippi.

    For more information, please visit sba.govor https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.

    Once the Major Disaster Declaration for Florida is finalized, more resources and information will be available. 



    The following are web sites and contact information for various federal and state agencies:

    Escambia County:

    Holmes County:

    Okaloosa County:

    Santa Rosa County:

    Walton County:

    Traffic and road information:

    Though this is a challenging time, I know that we will get through it together. Florida Strong!

    Dawn McArdle, District Director
    dawn.mcardle@mail.house.gov, 850-479-1183