SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — After a natural disaster strikes, recovery and rebuilding can be overwhelming and difficult to manage. “The reality is that recovering from a natural disaster is a marathon, not a sprint,” California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara said. 

U.S. Senator Alex Padilla and Lara hosted a storm recovery forum Monday to encourage Californians who were impacted by January’s extreme weather to apply for state and federal assistance.

“Californians have faced relentless rainstorms, flooding, and landslides that tragically cost 22 people their lives, as well as damaged infrastructure and property in communities throughout the state,” Padilla said. “It’s important for Californians to know that after this winter’s storms, assistance is available to help them recover.”

Firefighters help Humberto Maciel rescue his dog from his flooded home in Merced, California, on January 10, 2023. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)

Lara said, “Communities across our state are still picking up the pieces, reclaiming the sense of safety they lost in the storms. My Department of Insurance fights for consumers, and we can help you make the most of your benefits so you can recover more quickly.”

Californians looking for more information on resources available to help during the recovery process can visit Senator Padilla’s Disaster Resources page.

Visit the California Department of Insurance winter storm recovery page for insurance help.

FEMA designated 13 counties where residents and business owners can apply for Individual Assistance: Alameda, Calaveras, Contra Costa, Mendocino, Merced, Monterey, Sacramento, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, and Ventura.

This aerial view shows a flooded home partially underwater in Gilroy, California, on January 9, 2023. A massive storm called a bomb cyclone” by meteorologists caused widespread flooding throughout the state. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)

Tips for people affected by winter storms

The California Department of Insurance gave the following 10 tips below:

  1. Obtain a complete copy of your residential homeowners’ insurance policy, including your declarations page. Review the definitions section of the policy including types of water damage that is covered and excluded. Ask your agent or insurance company representative to explain how much coverage you have and how to most effectively claim your benefits.
  2. Homeowners policies do not cover flood damage, but they may cover other kinds of water damage. For example, they would generally pay for damage from rain coming through a hole in the roof or a broken window, as long as the hole was caused by strong winds or any other covered exposure listed in the policy.
  3. Damage caused from fallen trees are generally covered under all standard homeowner policies. There may be exceptions.
  4. Damaged vehicles as a result of flood or fallen trees are generally covered under the “Comprehensive” or “Other than Collision” portion of the auto policy.
  5. Check your deductible and assess the situation. If the damage is below the deductible, the insurance company would not be obligated to pay.
  6. Make temporary repairs to prevent your property from further damage. Take pictures and keep records of all clean up and repair costs. Don’t make permanent repairs until the insurance adjuster sees the damage.
  7. Document all of your conversations with your insurance company/adjuster about your claim and policy limitations in a dedicated “claim diary.” If your adjuster says something is excluded, limited, or subject to certain conditions, ask the adjuster to point out the specific provision in your policy being cited.
  8. Get at least one estimate or bid on the cost to repair your home to get a reasonable sense of the actual cost as compared to your coverage limits. This estimate can be compared with an estimate prepared by your insurance company.
  9. Before you hire a contractor, check their licensing status, including any complaint registered with the Contractors State License Board. View the CDI’s electronic brochure Don’t Get Scammed After a Disaster.
  10. Call the Department of Insurance Hotline at 800-927-4357 or through online chat at .