Task Force Releases Scoring Report, Unveils Water Intrusion Prevention Pilot

September 27, 2002

The NeighborWorks® National Insurance Task Force (NITF) has announced several activities to support its efforts to make insurance more available and affordable in lower-income communities. The activities include a report on insurance scoring, a water intrusion prevention pilot, and an assessment of its insurance education efforts.

According to NITF Chair Clayton Adams, who is vice president of community development of State Farm Insurance Companies, thee activities illustrate how partnerships between the insurance industry and community development organizations have evolved. “We are no longer providing funds with little interest in how they are used. We are now working as active partners. It’s no longer a donation, it’s an investment,” he said.

The NITF, in conjunction with the Insurance Information Institute, released a report to help guide insurers and community leaders on how to better educate consumers on the role of credit in insurance and how it can potentially affect them.

Based on its experience with insurance scoring, the NITF recommends that the insurance industry and community development organizations collaborate to provide a better understanding of insurance scoring through effective education to understand and manage personal finance matters.

The report recommends that the insurance industry:
*Collaborate with local community development organizations during the initial development of educational materials.
*Increase their level of outreach in the community, including providing risk mitigation, home safety, and financial management training to consumers.

The report also recommends broader support of the NeighborWorks® Financial Fitness Pilot Program, a partnership among financial institutions, the insurance industry and community development corporations. The program helps consumers learn to make good financial decisions by having long-term financial goals, develop new skills to manage their finances wisely, understand and navigate the financial system, and develop wealth-building strategies.

A Water Intrusion Prevention Pilot is also looked at. The problems of sudden water loss damages to homes, water intrusion and lingering unwanted moisture has existed for years, however in recent times the issue has shifted to a focus on exposure to indoor mold growth and its affects and risks to the property and the occupants.

The Sacramento Water Intrusion Prevention Program will be implemented in partnership between NITF and Sacramento Neighborhood Housing Services (SNHS). SNHS is a member of the NeighborWorks® network.

The three-year pilot will include three primary components:
(1) Community Outreach and Education
SNHS will expand its existing Home Maintenance Training curriculum to include water intrusion prevention steps, and water loss cleanup.
The training will provide clear information and simple actions for the resident occupant who has sudden water loss damage, or evident and lingering moisture in their home or apartment, to clean up the home and to routinely schedule on-going maintenance and self-inspections that will avoid recurrence or reduce the potential for property loss.

2) Home Evaluations
SNHS will provide an initial home evaluation to identify the possible evidence of water intrusion in the home and outline practical and effective methods to remedy the problems. When necessary, SNHS will refer the property owner or occupants to other local partners and known resources from the building industry for additional assistance.

3) Early Response Loans or Grants
SNHS will provide an Early Response grant to property owners within the targeted neighborhoods that have immediate needs and limited resources, where an early responsive action would avoid or substantially reduce the property loss. They will also provide affordable loans to qualified property owners that need to address more serious or widespread water intrusion or sudden water loss damages to their property. The funds would be used to complete clean-up and minor repairs of the property.

The Pilot will likely utilize existing partnerships through the SNHS Home Safety Task Force. Members of that task force include Cigna, Farmers Insurance, SAFECO, State Farm, The Hartford, and Western Insurance Information Service.

NITF conducted a survey evaluation of its Certified Insurance Counselor Training Program, which trains nonprofit counselors to educate clients about meeting their insurance needs. The surveys revealed the following:

*The value of the instructors and the training materials received very high marks.
*Interest is high among practitioners and residents for more information about insurance of all kinds.
*People generally don’t know how much they don’t know about insurance until they are made aware through education.
*Perceptions of the industry appear to improve once residents learn about insurance – its history, how insurance companies work, how insurance is sold, why homeowners insurance is necessary and what it covers, how they can evaluate insurance companies and agents, and related topics.
*Lower-income residents are especially interested in identifying and reducing risk – perhaps because losses of property and possessions can not be easily replaced when people have little financial cushioning.

A copy of the education report is also available online at www.nitf.nw.org.

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