We Can Learn From Hurricane Ravaged Panama City During Our Coronavirus Recovery

We Can Learn From Hurricane Ravaged Panama City During Our Coronavirus Recovery

Panama City knows all about reopening an economy.

18 months ago Hurricane Michael tore through the Panhandle town of 40,000. The category 5 hurricane destroyed thousands of homes, smashing commercial buildings to splinters, and ripping off roofs. The City Manager, McQueen has led the effort to rebuild the city & its economy and now our nation is poised to join him as it tries to transition out of a coronavirus shutdown in the coming weeks and months. Although Panama City hasn’t fully recovered from Michael, it’s residents are all too familiar with what an economic reboot entails.

The damage was historic leaving more than 14,000 displaced residents and more than 5,000 instantly homeless children and the federal government was little help. “Panama City has received fewer state and federal disaster relief dollars than any other city hit by a storm of this magnitude,” states McQueen. The city was still recovering when the pandemic began and not all businesses had reopened. The City Commission voted to extend the state of emergency order for Hurricane Michael on April 14 – the same day it extended the state of emergency for COVID-19.

“The lessons learned from Michael are immediately applicable to the work that must be done in Panama City and across the country to weather the damage from this pandemic,” McQueen continues. More than 1,000 Floridians have died from the coronavirus since the nation’s first recorded death in February. The state has logged more than 30,000 confirmed cases. Panama City is the county seat for Bay County, which has reported 63 cases and two deaths. Several states, including neighboring Georgia, have begun controversial efforts to reopen. Florida remains under a stay-at-home order through the end of April, but Gov. Ron DeSantis gave some municipalities the green light to reopen beaches. DeSantis asked his state coronavirus task force for a phase-in plan to reopen the state.

McQueen says the economic impact of the pandemic will mirror that of the hurricane in some ways. McQueen talks of a “V-shaped recovery curve” in which a number of businesses reopen quickly. “Some are even talking about there being a ‘W’-shaped curve with a possible second wave of the virus or a spike in bankruptcies bringing another dip,” he says. “I, however, believe the curve will look like a ‘U,’ ” much like the curve after Michael. Businesses will slowly reopen as conditions are appropriate.

Communication is key, McQueen says. Leaders should communicate early and often, which will foster trust and help reduce anxiety born of uncertainty and displace rumor and speculation. McQueen refers to the “emotional curve” developed by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

“Equally important to successfully navigating a crisis is the twin need to recognize the six distinct phases of emotional reaction,” he says. “From fear and uncertainty through disillusionment and finally to reconstruction.” The emergence of anti-quarantine protests in the USA is understandable as optimism morphs into disillusionment, he says.

Every community across the nation is at a different point in this curve, given their pre-COVID-19 underlying economic conditions, population density and the arrival time of the virus, he says. “One piece of advice: Document everything,” he says. “Elements of federal assistance are often contingent on showing the money was properly used.

“Pre-disaster planning is critical,” McQueen says. The warning lead-time for a storm is a few days. COVID-19 lurked for months. He notes that federal health officials have warned a second wave could come in the fall or winter. “The best time to prepare for an event is before it happens. With the pandemic in full swing, communities should look ahead,” he says. “The time to plan for that crisis is now.”

Perry & Young is a nationally recognized personal injury, car accident, & commercial trucking accident law firm that has cultivated a reputation for our ability to successfully resolve even the most challenging cases. Over 35 years of experience, our award-winning team has secured multi-millions in numerous verdicts and settlements for clients across Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and all over the country. Learn more about our services, your potential case and rights, and how we can help by calling (850) 215-7777 for a FREE consultation.

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What The Florida Stay At Home Order Allows & What it Does Not

What The Florida Stay At Home Order Allows & What it Does Not

So what exactly does Gov. Ron DeSantis’ stay-at-home or “Safer At Home” order mean for Florida?

It defines what essential businesses and services remain open during the state’s COVID-19 response, and outlines what people are permitted to do outside of their homes if they practice social distancing. To see the complete order & find out what is an essential business and what is not, click the link below.

Florida Stay At Home Order

The order goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday and expires April 30, but that date is subject to change.

For more on the governor’s previous and current executive orders, visit www.flgov.com/2020-executive-orders.

Keep in mind the stay-at-home order may be updated. As it stands now, you can:

  • Attend religious services;
  • Shop at grocery stores;
  •  Get medications from pharmacies;
  • Fuel up at gas stations;
  •  Wash clothes at laundromats;
  •  Care for or assist a loved one or friend;
  •  See the doctor, after calling ahead;
  • Take pets to the veterinarian, after calling ahead;
  •  Go outside to walk, jog, fish, hunt, swim, bike and participate in other recreational activities as long as people don’t gather in groups of more than 10 and stay at least 6 feet apart.

You’re not allowed to:

  •  Visit or work in a place that’s not an essential service;
  • Gather in groups of 10 or more people, or be closer than 6 feet to others;
  •  Visit family or friends socially;
  •  Visit someone in a nursing home, hospital or assisted living facility without contacting the service beforehand

Perry & Young is a nationally recognized personal injury, car accident, & commercial trucking accident law firm that has cultivated a reputation for our ability to successfully resolve even the most challenging cases. Over 35 years of experience, our award-winning team has secured multi-millions in numerous verdicts and settlements for clients across Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and all over the country. Learn more about our services, your potential case and rights, and how we can help by calling (850) 215-7777 for a FREE consultation.

Your Insurance Claims and Covid-19

Your Insurance Claims and Covid-19

It is safe to say that many businesses will close their doors in response to the pandemic we are currently experiencing. For some this will be temporary, whereas others will not be able to stay afloat while we wait for our world to function as it once did. The questions many business owners have go something like this: Will my insurance company protect me? Can the coronavirus constitute as property damage? If not, how will economic loss be handled by insurance companies? Am I covered under my business interruption policy?

Insurance policies are the most sold and least read document in the world. Think about that for a second. If you are like the majority of the population, that might have hit you pretty hard, especially when you consider the Coronavirus and how it is impacting every single one of us. If you are a business owner, that sentence might have even scared you in a time like today. Below we will lay out the types of things you should be wary of, and what questions your insurer needs to be able to answer for you. First, we’ll start with a little refresher.

For insurance to come into effect, there has to be an “event” which is a “covered loss” – these items are defined policy by policy. There are endorsements and exclusions – usually the endorsements and exclusions either limit the recovery or completely exclude the recovery for exposure or disease type of cases. Once you have that laid out, your policy will have different areas of coverage, the most common being building property loss, ancillary property (offsite or storage area), contents of building, and business interruption.

A coverage area we’re going to address in relation to Covid-19 is business interruption, is held by many small business owners – restaurants, bars, medical and dental offices. Recently, there have been stories circulating of restaurants asking for donations in the form of gift cards or Venmo payments so they can disburse them to their employees. In fact, a restaurant group in our county has done just that. So where does business interruption come into play? Unfortunately, some might not see it at all. For others, it might have a small cap at $25,000, which might not be enough to cover payroll over two weeks time, let alone two or three months. There could even be a sneaky provision that contains a waiting period before that coverage is triggered or available. It is clear here that policies vary widely, and it is your job as the policy holder to understand yours.

Businesses have found another hidden clause in their policies. If the business is shut down via a government or state order, does it qualify under a disaster or damage policy? It might be the case that a disaster is happening outside of the business, but the issue will be whether or not there was a disaster inside, or simply a state order requiring a shutdown. If rather, you have a Covid-19 positive employee, then the closure could be covered in order to properly disinfect the business. Then the problem becomes timeliness and how long it really takes to clean a business, which brings us to our next question.

How long this is going to last? Right now, we have no idea what the period of coverage will need to extend to. If your claim is accepted and you receive $50,000, will that be enough? If your area is seemingly untouched, it might. What if instead, your policy only covers the time it takes to to repair the damaged property. Insurance companies are likely to argue this is a quick process, simply wipe down and disinfect the establishment in a day. However, we know the virus persists in the area and is easily spread in the air, which should therefore extend the period of coverage.

It all comes down to the way policies are written. Insurance companies sell on the big print, “Business Interruption” and pay-out on the small print “Endorsement for Disasters.” As you can see, policies and their exemptions can vary widely. The verbiage alone can and will make the difference in an accepted or denied insurance claim. In the future, will we see an entirely new insurance policy specifically for viruses like this one? These are just a few things to think about. If you have questions about yours, give us a call today at 850-215-7777. One of our skilled attorneys will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Natural Disaster vs. COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

Natural Disaster vs. COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

Empty shelves, mass hysteria, long lines, fights over products; as a Floridian, this might sound like the beginning of hurricane prep.  Here we are going to lay out what is different, what is the same, and how to prepare so you are not taken advantage of.  If you were one of the many affected by Hurricane Michael, all of this will sound very familiar to you.  So, what is the point?  Here, the goal is to refresh your memory on how things are going to change in the coming days, weeks, and months.

With Coronavirus, we are not going to be flooded with evictions in the same way we see after a natural disaster, such as a hurricane that damages a home, or when a landlord wishes to participate in price gouging.  In this scenario, they attempt to push the tenant out in order to double or triple rent.  Instead, the question that will inevitably arise is this: How am I going to pay rent if I am not working?

Eviction restrictions are jumping from city to city in response to closed businesses and schools alike.  Some major cities are setting the restrictions at 30 days, and others (such as Boston) have taken it upon themselves to extend to 90 days with check-ups in between.  In a strange turn of events, renters are protected amidst this pandemic.  If the government decides to extend this restriction to commercial evictions, it could additionally prove to be beneficial to small businesses. Only time will tell if the court system is later inundated with eviction cases once the aid restriction is lifted.

After a natural disaster, many mortgage companies reach out to their clientele and offer deferment or abatement of payments.  While this might sound like a good idea, many experienced Floridians know this means your $1,500 monthly payment is still assessed on the 1st, and after six months of “freebies,” you are stuck with a $9,000 bill. Ouch.  While this might be ideal for some, it is a trap for others.  Now is the time to look at your finances and see which course of action is going to be best for your family in the long run.

It looks like this time around we are going to receive a different kind of government aid.  Instead of small business loans and FEMA trucks, we might all see a check with our name on it arriving on our doorstep.  While the implications of this decision may prove to be detrimental, it could help to assist an even great recession from occurring during this strange, isolated time.  How far can $1,000 go?  Will the common US household be able to survive on this alone in the coming weeks?  This is yet one more thing to look to when laying out your financial decisions.

After a hurricane, power is lost and so is a lot of hope.  While most of us are participating in social distancing, there are still a multitude of ways to keep contact with others, thanks to the modern-day era.  If you hop on any site, you will see a list of things and places that are cancelled, postponed, or closed.  If your email inbox looks anything like mine, you have heard about how every company you have ever interacted with is handling COVID-19.  What the goal is now, is to realize what all is not lost.  Phone lines are not down, grocery stores are not depleted, interaction is not lost.

While you are concerned with stocking up on toilet paper, Clorox wipes, Mucinex, and bleach, make sure you stock up on compassion, too.  There are people from all different ways of life who will need to come together for support after this blows over.  Nothing brings people together like a natural disaster, and I believe the Coronavirus will do the same.

Mothers United in Tragedy Push Florida Lawmakers to Act

Mothers United in Tragedy Push Florida Lawmakers to Act

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – For months, Laurie Giordano had been telling the story of her son to anyone who would listen — of how her Zach, a strapping 16-year-old football player, should never had collapsed in the sweltering Florida heat nearly three years ago. He died days later.

For weeks, Giordano has been driving six hours each way to meet with lawmakers in the state Capitol to push them to act, to understand the unbearable grief of a parent trying to bring meaning to a child’s death.

At the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee, Giordano crossed paths Thursday with Lori Alhadeff, who lost her 14-year-old daughter Alyssa in the Parkland school shooting. Both spoke about how tragedy and loss is motivating them to lobby for legislation meant to save other children and other parents from suffering.

Giordano and Alhadeff are linked over their grief of losing children and working to get lawmakers to make schools safer, albeit in different ways.

Alhadeff was back to urge lawmakers to require panic buttons at schools to more quickly summon for help. That was one of many school safety measures spawned by the shootings on Feb. 14, 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17. The bill, known as “Alyssa’s Law,” requires each public elementary, middle, and high school campus, including charter schools, to put in place a mobile system to alert authorities of emergencies.

And Giordano was again at the Capitol to take a seat at the public gallery overlooking the Senate floor, where lawmakers unanimously approved a bill renamed the “Zachary Martin Act.” The legislation would require public schools across Florida to do more to prevent heat-related injuries and deaths.

For a few minutes, they spoke about their children and their shared mission. Giordano admired the pendant hanging from Alhadeff’s neck that bears Alyssa’s smiling face.

“I don’t know how everything went down in your tragedy, but I just kept thinking that help was on the way,” Alhadeff told Giordano about that fateful day in February 2018.

“And help was not on the way,” Giordano interrupted, finishing Alhadeff’s thought.

Another Florida mother suffering a loss, Denise Williams, roamed the Capitol Thursday to begin lobbying for a new law in the name of her daughter Terissa Gautney, who died on a school bus in 2018.

Since losing their daughter, Williams and her husband have been pushing school boards and seeking the help of lawmakers to require life-saving training for school bus drivers and better communications equipment on school buses.

Williams and Alhadeff also crossed paths at the Capitol.

“Our children were lost in a traumatic situation, and my heart breaks for any other mother. And I can feel the pain that they feel,” Alhadeff said of Williams and Giordano. “Even if it was different kinds of tragedies, it’s still the pain of losing a child.”

Giordano’s son died in the summer of 2017 after collapsing in the Florida heat during practice.

After her son’s death, Giordano founded the Zach Martin Memorial Foundation, which has worked to raise awareness about the dangers of heat-related stresses. As part of its work, the foundation has donated 40 cooling tubs to schools across Florida.

Her son, she said, would still be alive if life-saving equipment were at the sidelines during practice — perhaps a water-filled tub — to immediately cool down his body.

“I’m exhausted, but it’s OK. Once this is over, I’m going to collapse for a week,” Giordano said while waiting for lawmakers to take action on her bill.

“A six-hour drive is a long time to be alone with your thoughts,” she said, “that’s when the emotions is really hard. That’s when the tears flow.”

If passed by Legislature and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, public schools would be required to have a tub or other large container filled with cold water at the sidelines during all games and practices. Schools also would be required to have defibrillators to resuscitate stricken athletes. The proposed law would also require schools to train personnel on how to recognize signs of heat-related ailments, including potentially deadly heat strokes, and to take life-saving actions.

But even at the brink of success, Giordano said there is little comfort.

“I still cry every day,” she said. “There is no consoling. No, it doesn’t get better.”

Losing a child is a devastating loss but losing one to negligence hits home far worse. Perry & Young is a nationally recognized personal injury, car accident, & commercial trucking accident law firm that has cultivated a reputation for our ability to successfully resolve even the most challenging cases. Over 35 years of experience, our award-winning team has secured multi-millions in numerous verdicts and settlements for clients across Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and all over the country. Learn more about our services, your potential case and rights, and how we can help by calling (850) 215-7777 for a FREE consultation.

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