December 5, 2017
The Houston area was devastated by Hurricane Harvey this fall. The disaster was personal for Texas Mutual because it affected our own employees and many of the businesses that contribute to Texas' economy. In response, we launched a $10 million grant program for policyholders just 10 days after the storm hit.
Policyholders could apply for up to $10,000 each to help with their recovery, and more than 1,100 business owners received a grant. Each one was affected in a different way, but what they all had in common was the drive to rebuild and the help they received along the way.
Kevin Topek, owner of Permaculture Design LLC located in Bellaire, is a perfect example of that. His landscape design and installation company has been in the Houston area for 16 years and focuses on creating natural habitats and ecosystems.
Ninety-five percent of his neighborhood was completely flooded by Hurricane Harvey. The storm brought two feet of water into his business sheds. Many tools were damaged from the floodwaters, requiring extensive man hours to repair, while others needed replacement. After the storm subsided, Kevin's business took in non-paying jobs so he could help his neighbors with disaster cleanup.
Kevin's insurance agent, Jan Weatherton of Harco Insurance, contacted him and suggested he apply for a Hurricane Harvey relief grant from Texas Mutual. Using his phone's sluggish hot spot to connect to the internet on his computer, Kevin detailed the damage his business had suffered: gasoline power tools and lawn mowers were submerged, organic fertilizer and pest control materials were waterlogged and ruined, and dozens of hand tools that were exposed to water became rusty, unusable equipment.
Texas Mutual employees worked tirelessly to process the relief grant applications we received and get responses quickly to policyholders. About one week after submitting his application, Kevin received an email notification letting him know he was approved for a grant. In his words, the response left him "gobsmacked." He was completely stunned. The check arrived just three days later, giving him the means to start rebuilding his business. Kevin was able to quickly process paychecks for his two employees and put the remaining funds back into his business to help ease the burden during recovery.
In Texas, it is not required to carry workers' compensation insurance, but for Kevin, "it's the right thing to do and I can't imagine not doing it." After receiving the grant funds, Kevin expressed his appreciation for Texas Mutual for helping to keep his business afloat in a challenging time.
"They have my loyalty as long as I'm in business in Texas," he said.