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Bill Introduced To Expand Insurance Coverage For Fire Victims In Oregon

At a burned home in Phoenix, volunteer crews of archeologists search for two sets of cremains lost in the Almeda Fire.
At a burned home in Phoenix, volunteer crews of archeologists search for two sets of cremains lost in the Almeda Fire.

Many insurance policies allow homeowners up to one year to rebuild their home after a disaster, like a wildfire. A bill to extend this timeline is being introduced in the Oregon legislature this week.

Rep. Pam Marsh (D-Ashland) is proposing a bill that would strengthen insurance benefits for fire victims. If passed, insurance companies would be required to provide all policy-holders additional time to rebuild their destroyed homes.

Marsh says that last year’s Almeda Fire made the need for expanded insurance coverage especially clear.

“When individuals are experiencing one of the worst moments of their lives, as they certainly did after Almeda," says Marsh, "we need to make sure that they know they can rebuild that they have time to do that, that they have support for themselves and their families as they are striving to rebuild -- that they can make good choices that benefit both them and their families.”

If passed, the bill would require people who have experienced a single disaster, like an individual house flood, at least two years to rebuild and two years of living expenses. For mass disasters, like wildfire, coverage would expand to three years. It would also allow policy holders to legally hold insurance companies accountable for failing to meet the bill’s requirements.

Marsh says that although this bill was drafted because of the devastating aftermath of the Almeda Fire, the protections will likely be important in the future, as well.

“Sadly, we are probably not done with disasters of various kinds," says Marsh. "It is likely that we will face other wildfires or floods or catastrophic earthquakes and we need to make sure that insurance policies provide the pretty basic coverage that we are going to need in those circumstances.”

The bill is slated to be introduced in the House Committee on Business and Labor on Wednesday.