SURFSIDE, Fla. — The walls of unit 303 told Jay Miller’s story.
A rare carved head from the Solomon Islands believed to offer supernatural protection. A bronze statue from Greek mythology. A hand-knotted Indian carpet.
The trinkets and relics encapsulated Miller’s memories of a life teaching in the South Pacific, Southeast Asia and Europe. He had placed each one methodicallythroughout his two-bedroom condo next to inherited family heirlooms and photos of his daughter.
All of it disappeared on June 24 when the Champlain Towers South
Now Miller, like some other survivors whose homes were destroyed that day, is struggling to get an insurance payout to replace what was lost in one of the largest building disasters in U.S. history.
Some insurance companies have delayed payments or routed them to third parties. At least one – State Farm – has yet to decide if it will issue payments to Miller and possibly others.
Documents provided by USA TODAY show State Farm won’t decide whether to pay until – a process investigators say could take months if not years.
State Farm confirmed in a statement that it does not move forward with payments without the cause. The company did not answer questions about how many other Champlain Towers South residents it insures and whether they’re also awaiting payments.
It’s not an isolated situation, said Michael Capponi, the founder of Global Empowerment Mission, a Miami-based nonprofit that is working to rehouse survivors in new condos by covering a full year’s rent.
“I know many people are waiting for the money from settlements and insurance to come in, but what are they going to do in the meantime?” said Capponi. “The things survivors face are just horrible.“
The payouts from individual policies are especially important since the policy that covered the replacement cost of the building itself is woefully inadequate. There’s only $48 million available from Champlain Towers South’s policy, according to a judge in a recent court case stemming from the disaster. The price tag for the loss, by contrast, is estimated at close to $1 billion.
At least one insurance company, Universal Property and Casualty Insurance, has already begun disbursing the maximum policy payouts for Surfside collapse survivors. But even that process has seen problems.
Universal insured 42 units at Champlain Towers for repairs or personal-property loss, according to court documents obtained by USA TODAY.
Steve Rosenthal, who escaped the collapse with little but the clothes he was wearing, said it took him weeks to get one of his payments after the company sent it to his mortgage company.