Hold onto Your Hat (and Your Home)! It’s Hurricane Season!

August 14, 2020

The word hurricane comes from the Taino Native American word, hurucane, meaning evil spirit of the wind. An Atlantic hurricane or tropical storm is a tropical cyclone that forms in the Atlantic Ocean. In the Pacific Ocean, hurricanes are generally known as typhoons and in the Indian Ocean they are called tropical cyclones.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) warns that as many as 25 named storms—twice the average number—will occur in 2020 to present an extremely active season that began on June 1 and ends November 30 with more frequent, longer, and stronger storms in the Northern Atlantic Ocean.

Storms get names once they have sustained wind speeds of at least 74 miles per hour. NOAA anticipates that 2020 could deliver a total of 19 to 25 named storms. That would put this year in league with 2005, which experienced more than two dozen named storms including Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma. Each year, only 21 storm names are designated because the letters Q, U, X, Y, and Z are not used. The first hurricane of the year is given a name beginning with the letter “A.” The list of names selected for 2020 storms starts with “Arthur” and ends with “Wilfred.”

If all the allotted names are used, the National Hurricane Center will use the Greek alphabet for additional names. This has only happened one time on record—in 2005 when the Atlantic Ocean experienced 28 named storms.

“We are now entering the peak months of the Atlantic hurricane season, August through October,” National Weather Service Director Louis Uccellini said in a recent news teleconference. “Given the activity we have seen so far this season, coupled with the ongoing challenges that communities face in light of COVID-19, now is the time to organize your family plan and make necessary preparations.”

FEMA’s (Federal Emergency Management Agency) Ready website provides checklists to help you put a plan together, consider specific needs in your household, download and fill out a family emergency plan, and to practice your plan with your family/household.

In planning for hurricanes and in dealing with outcomes of storm damage, you’ll also need to review your insurance coverage to make sure it matches your needs. Hurricanes provide little advance notice of their arrival, and as landfall approaches, insurance companies may temporarily suspend new coverage and coverage changes.

An insurance representative can review your policy, explain limits and deductibles, and help you identify coverage gaps. “You should ask your representative for tips on hurricane risk mitigation that may lower your insurance premiums and better protect your property,” says Tom Woods, assistant vice president of property underwriting for USAA.

Insurance Information Institute (III) website shares precautionary measures you can take to protect your home as well as your business from destructive storms. Don’t wait until a hurricane watch is issued, because it may already be too late to take certain recommended precautions, including reviewing your insurance policies.

III also offers a hurricane season insurance checklist that can help you understand your coverage and whether it’s adequate to repair or rebuild your home and to replace your belongings. Keep in mind that your homeowners insurance covers the cost of temporary repairs for hurricane damage, as well as reasonable additional living expenses over and above your normal living expenses if you have to relocate.

However, your homeowners policy doesn’t cover flood damage, so you may want to consider looking into flood insurance. If you live by the coast, you may also need a separate policy for protection against wind and wind-blown water damage. Check for wind-damage exclusions, and if wind damage isn’t covered by your standard policy, buy one from your state’s insurance program. In hurricane-prone states, for instance Louisiana, Texas, and Florida, some standard home insurance policies won’t pay for windstorm damage. So, if you want coverage, you need to buy an extra windstorm insurance policy in addition to your normal home insurance policy. In this case all wind damage would fall under this policy instead of your traditional homeowners policy.

After reviewing and revising insurance coverage with your insurance professional for your home, car, and business, store your updated insurance policies at InsureYourKnow.org where they will be readily available if a hurricane comes calling and wreaks havoc on printed versions of policies kept in your home or office.

During hurricane season, visit FEMA’s Ready website for more information and stay tuned to the National Hurricane Center for updates on tropical storm and hurricane activity in the Atlantic Ocean.

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Stand Up (or Sit Down) and be Counted in the 2020 Census

July 29, 2020

The 2020 Census counts every person living in the United States and five U.S. territories (Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.) The count, mandated by the U.S. Constitution in Article 1, Section 2, is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, a nonpartisan government agency, every 10 years. The 2020 Census will mark the 24th time that the country has counted its population since 1790.

In March 2020, each home was sent an invitation to respond to a short questionnaire online, by phone, or by mail. If you have already replied by answering the survey about yourself and everyone who was living with you on April 1, 2020, the Census Bureau is grateful. If you haven’t yet completed the questionnaire, your answers are still needed to add with information from other homes to produce statistics, which never identify your home or any person in your home. 

Census invitations included an insert in 12 non-English languages, inviting people to respond online or by phone in their language. These languages, ranked by the number of limited-English-speaking households according to American Community Survey data collected from 2012 to 2016, include Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, and Japanese. About 13 million households received invitations in both English and Spanish. 

The Census Bureau also is providing video guides narrated in 59 non-English languages (including American Sign Language) to help people respond online and print guides written in the 59 non-English languages to help people complete the English paper questionnaire. Guides are also available in Braille and large print English.

You’ve Got Questions? The U.S. Census Bureau has Answers

Why is the Census Conducted?

The census provides complete, accurate, and critical data that lawmakers, business owners, teachers, and many others use to provide daily services, products, and support for you and your community. Every year, billions of dollars in federal funding go to more than 100 programs, including hospitals, fire departments, schools, roads, and other resources, such as Medicaid, Head Start, block grants for community mental health services, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP, based on census data. 

The results of the census also determine the number of seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives, and they are used to adjust or redraw congressional and state legislative districts, based on where populations have increased or decreased.

State legislatures or independent bipartisan commissions are responsible for redrawing congressional districts. The U.S. Census Bureau provides states with population counts for this purpose.

Over the next decade, lawmakers, business owners, and many others will use 2020 Census data to make critical decisions. The results will show where communities need new schools, new clinics, new roads, and more services for families, older adults, and children.

Is My Personal Information Kept Confidential?

Yes, the Census Bureau is bound by federal law to protect your information, and your responses are used only for statistical purposes. The Census Bureau does not disclose any personal information.

Who is Required to Respond?

Everyone living in the United States and its five territories is required by law to be counted in the 2020 Census.

What Questions are on the Census?

Go to https://2020census.gov/en/about-questions.html for the list of questions and an explanation about each question posed. Please note, there is no citizenship question on the 2020 Census.

How do I Determine Place of Residence? 

You should count yourself at the place where you are living and sleeping most of the time as of April 1, 2020 (Census Day). For some, this is straightforward. But others—including college students, service members, and people in health care facilities—may have questions about where they should count themselves or how they should respond. Other circumstances can cause confusion as well, such as moving, having multiple residences, having no permanent address, living in a shelter, or living at a hotel or RV park. You can find answers to these questions at Official Residence Criteria for the 2020 Census.

Whom Should I Count as Individuals Living with Me?

If you are filling out the census for your home, you should count everyone who was living there as of April 1, 2020. This includes anyone—related or unrelated to you—who lives and sleeps at your home most of the time.

Count roommates, young children, newborns, and anyone who is renting a space in your home. If someone was staying in your home on April 1 and had no usual home elsewhere, you should count them in your response to the 2020 Census.

If someone such as a college student is just living with you temporarily due to the COVID-19 situation, they should be counted where they ordinarily would have been living on April 1, 2020.

What can Happen if I Don’t Respond to the Census?

By census law, refusal to answer all or part of the census carries a $100 fine. The penalty goes up to $500 for giving false answers. In 1976, Congress eliminated both the possibility of a 60-day prison sentence for noncompliance and a one-year prison term for false answers.

If you do not complete your form online, by phone, or by mail, the U.S. Census Bureau will follow up in person to collect your response.

Census takers started following up with nonresponding households on July 16. In subsequent weeks, the Census Bureau began opening additional census offices for enumeration activities. The majority of census offices across the country will begin follow-up work on August 11. All offices plan to conclude work by October 31.

In consideration of the COVID-19 pandemic, census takers will follow local public health guidelines when they visit households in person. They will wear face masks and will practice social distancing and other health and safety protocols when they work in neighborhoods. Learn more at  Census Takers in Your Neighborhood.

Census takers are hired from your area, and their goal is to help you and everyone in your home be counted in the 2020 Census. If the census taker who visits your home does not speak your language, you may request a return visit from a census taker who does speak your language.

If no one is home when the census taker visits, the census taker will leave a notice of their visit with information about how to respond onlineby phone or by mail.

If you respond online or by phone today, a census taker is less likely to have to visit your home to collect your response. 

Go to https://my2020census.gov to complete your questionnaire if you haven’t done so already.

Complying with the call for you to respond to the 2020 Census may prompt you to reflect on your forefathers who may have contributed to the previous 23 times the census has been conducted since 1790. Or, if you are a first generation American, you may realize the importance of being part of a remarkable project that will identify national population changes in the past 10 years. At InsureYouKnow.org, you can file copies of family records, including birth certificates, passports, drivers’ licenses, and Social Security cards, as well as historical and current records for mortgage and insurance documentation relating to your place of residence. 

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