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President Joe Biden visits a neighborhood that received severe damage from Hurricane Ida in LaPlace, Sept. 3.

President Joe Biden is pressuring insurance companies in Louisiana to cover living expenses for policyholders who evacuated their homes ahead of Hurricane Ida but are being denied coverage because their parish wasn’t under a mandatory evacuation order.

Allstate and USAA have reportedly responded to the pressure by agreeing to cover additional living expenses for policyholders in the state who evacuated their homes, according to CNBC, which cited an anonymous White House official.

Local officials raised the issue with federal partners after receiving an influx of complaints from survivors who said FEMA won’t grant them assistance because they have insurance, but their insurance carrier won’t support them because they weren’t in a mandatory evacuation zone.

“They’re getting caught between the switches,” said Walter Leger Jr., a prominent New Orleans lawyer who has been tasked by Biden’s senior advisor Cedric Richmond to help address the issue.

When registering for individual assistance from FEMA, applicants are asked whether they have insurance coverage. If they do have insurance, FEMA asks for an explanation of benefits. That’s because, by law, FEMA is not allowed to duplicate insurance payments.

But some survivors with insurance are getting denied coverage of those evacuation expenses because the fine print on their insurance policy requires that their locality be under a mandatory evacuation order.

That’s leaving many stranded with neither support from their insurance agency nor hundreds of dollars in immediate relief from FEMA.

At the moment, FEMA is dealing with the issue on a case-by-case basis, asking survivors to submit written documentation of that denial in coverage from their insurance providers.

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“Don’t take a verbal denial,” said John Mills, a FEMA spokesperson. “If your insurance company denies your claim, get it in writing. FEMA will then consider you for individual assistance grant money to help with you critical needs and for expedited rental assistance if you need to relocate because of this prolonged, life-threatening power outage.”

But Leger said it’s unrealistic to ask survivors without power, water or internet connectivity to provide that documentation. He has suggested that FEMA across the board allow residents in certain parishes that didn’t have mandatory evacuations to still sign up for assistance.

“If we can recognize in certain areas where there was no mandatory evacuation that ABC insurance company is going to deny coverage, then that should be enough,” Leger said.

Residents in Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Charles and portions of Orleans and Jefferson parishes faced mandatory evacuations.

But Hurricane Ida’s rapid approach towards Louisiana’s southeast coast left little time for other parishes to issue evacuation orders.

On Friday, while visiting St. John the Baptist Parish, which was walloped by Ida but had only a voluntary evacuation order, Biden called on insurance companies not to “hide behind the fine print.”

“No one fled this killer storm because they were looking for a vacation or a road trip,” Biden said. “I’m calling on the private insurance companies — right now, at this critical moment — don’t hide behind the fine print. Do your job. Keep your commitments to the communities you insure … Pay your policy holders what you owe them.”

To register for assistance from FEMA, go to disasterassistance.gov or call 1-800-621-3362.

Having issues getting assistance from either FEMA or your insurance provider in Hurricane Ida's aftermath? Send your story to staff writer Blake Paterson at bpaterson@theadvocate.com and a reporter may reach out to you.


Email Blake Paterson at bpaterson@theadvocate.com and follow him on Twitter @blakepater