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Wednesday September 20th, 2017 9:32PM

The Latest: Texas law eases penalty for insurers slow to pay

By The Associated Press
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HOUSTON (AP) — The Latest on Tropical Depression Harvey (all times local):

10:45 a.m.

A new Texas law now in effect, a week after Harvey made landfall, lowers the penalty for insurers that take too long to pay a claim.

Consumer advocates had urged homeowners impacted by the record-breaking storm to quickly file claims before the changes signed by Gov. Greg Abbott in May kicked in Friday.

State officials say few Harvey victims are likely to be affected because the law doesn't apply to flood insurance claims or coastal residents covered by the state's insurer-of-last-resort.

Insurers sued for dragging out claims previously had to pay 18 percent interest if a court ruled against them. Now that penalty is around 10 percent, which opponents say won't incentivize insurers to act quickly.

State officials say more than 50,000 homes have suffered major damage or were destroyed entirely. More than 200,000 others homes were affected or sustained minor damage.

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10:40 a.m.

A pipeline company that halted transport of gasoline and other fuel after Harvey devastated parts of the Texas Gulf Coast hopes to resume deliveries this weekend.

Dolin (DOH'-lin) Argo, vice president of operations and business development for Explorer Pipeline, said Friday that the company closed its two main pipelines days ago. Argo says deliveries should resume this weekend if refined fuel products are available from Texas refineries.

Several refineries in the Houston area shut down as Harvey flooded area cities.

Argo says Explorer personnel were examining above-ground facilities for possible damage.

Explorer is owned by Phillips66, Marathon, Sunoco Logistics and Shell.

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10:30 a.m.

A flooded Southeast Texas city has set up a water giveaway point more than 24 hours after Harvey knocked out municipal water service.

A news release says Beaumont will be giving away bottled water near the Babe Zaharias Memorial Stadium until sundown Friday, or until the city runs out.

Officials have been struggling to cope since Thursday, when the swollen Neches River inundated Beaumont's main water intake system and backup pumps failed.

Hundreds of people showed up Friday morning for a separate giveaway hosted by a Kroger grocery store. Initially each person was given four gallons (15 liters), but the store cut back to two gallons (7.5 liters) each as the supply dwindled.

Among those who received some water were 63-year-old Judy Blue and her 83-year-old mother, Dee Silva. They waited in line about an hour.

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10:15 a.m.

More than 1,500 people are staying at shelters in Louisiana in Harvey's aftermath, and the number is rising as more people are evacuated from flood-ravaged communities in Texas.

Shauna Sanford, a spokeswoman for Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, says 1,510 people were in six Louisiana shelters as of midnight Thursday. She says 1,384 of them came from Texas.

The state opened a seventh shelter in Shreveport on Friday that can accommodate approximately 2,400 people. Sanford says 1,177 people spent the night at a state-run shelter in Alexandria that has a capacity of about 2,500. The state Department of Children and Family Services is overseeing the two state-run shelters.

More than 200 others were staying at a parish-run shelter in Lake Charles. Sanford says the Red Cross opened three shelters — two in Rapides Parish and one in Caddo Parish. Another shelter opened at a church in Beauregard Parish.

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10:10 a.m.

Approximately 1,000 people have been flown to Dallas from a shelter in Beaumont where residents have no drinking water due to widespread flooding from Harvey.

Brad Peterson, a spokesman for emergency operations in Beaumont, says the people who had sought shelter at the Beaumont Civic Center were flown Thursday evening 300 miles (480 kilometers) to Dallas.

Most have been taken to the Hutchison Convention Center in downtown Dallas, and the others are being housed at smaller shelters in the area.

Monica Cordova, a Dallas city spokeswoman, said Friday that nearly 700 people slept at the convention center.

Thousands of people have been displaced by torrential rains and catastrophic flooding since Harvey slammed into the Gulf Coast last Friday.

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9:45 a.m.

A foundation established by Dell Technologies CEO Michael Dell and his wife has pledged $36 million for Harvey relief efforts in his hometown of Houston.

The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation said Friday it will donate half the amount to launch the Rebuild Texas Fund with Gov. Greg Abbott, and is running a matching campaign through midnight Monday in which the foundation will match $1 for every $2 donated. The Rebuild Texas Fund aims to raise $100 million.

The announcement comes a week after Harvey made landfall in Southeast Texas. The ensuing floods devastated parts of Houston, plus Beaumont and Port Arthur along the Louisiana border.

The statement says the street in Houston where Dell grew up is under water.

Dell Technologies is based in Round Rock, near Austin.

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9:25 a.m.

Harvey, Illinois, is offering 10 free houses to Texans who have lost their homes to the storm with which the Chicago suburb shares its name.

Sean Howard, a spokesman for the city, tells WMAQ-TV that volunteer tradesmen and carpenters are going to prepare the homes for the new residents. Renovations could take about six weeks.

The city acquired the homes due to unpaid taxes. Instead of selling the properties to investors, the city is making them permanently available to storm victims.

Harvey -- the storm -- made landfall Aug. 25 along Texas' Gulf Coast as a Category 4 hurricane. Flooding has left thousands of Houston-area families homeless.

Harvey, Illinois, offered a similar program to people who lost their homes in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast.

___

8:50 a.m.

President Donald Trump says there is still "so much to do" for Texas to recover from Hurricane Harvey. Trump will travel again to Texas on Saturday.

Trump tweeted Friday that "Texas is heeling (sic) fast thanks to all of the great men & women who have been working so hard." He later corrected the spelling of "healing."

But he says, "still, so much to do."

Trump has proposed federal hiring and budget plans that raise questions about his promised recovery effort.

He also tweeted Friday to praise his new chief of staff, Gen. John Kelly, and criticize former FBI Director James Comey over his investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails.

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8:05 a.m.

President Donald Trump says there is still "so much to do" for Texas to recover from Harvey. Trump will travel again to Texas on Saturday.

Trump tweeted Friday that "Texas is heeling (sic) fast thanks to all of the great men & women who have been working so hard."

But he says, there's "still, so much to do."

Trump has proposed federal hiring and budget plans that raise questions about his promised recovery effort.

Thousands of people have been displaced by torrential rains and catastrophic flooding since Harvey slammed into Southeast Texas last Friday.

He also tweeted Friday to praise his new chief of staff, Gen. John Kelly, and criticize former FBI Director James Comey over his investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails.

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8 a.m.

Gov. Greg Abbott says it will take years for Harvey-swamped Texas to "dig out from this catastrophe."

Abbott told ABC's "Good Morning America" Friday that state and federal government will assist in the recovery. The floods are starting to recede in the Houston area, but are still swamping cities elsewhere.

It's been a week since Harvey made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane near Corpus Christi. Quickly downgraded to a tropical storm, Harvey swamped Houston, then swept east to Beaumont, Port Arthur and Vidor (VY'-dur). Thousands of people have been evacuated to shelters.

Abbott says the Federal Emergency Management Agency is prepared to help, especially those without flood insurance.

He says it's important for Texas to return to normal as soon as possible.

___

7:40 a.m.

Houston's mayor says the city needs more high-water vehicles and other equipment for first responders as search efforts expand amid receding floodwaters in the nation's fourth-largest city.

Mayor Sylvester Turner told "CBS This Morning" for a segment broadcast Friday that the city also needs the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide more workers to complete and process applications from thousands who need aid.

He says people who suffered through Harvey's floods expect emergency management officials to work "with the greatest degree of urgency."

Turner says he's asking FEMA to provide a preliminary financial aid package of $75 million for debris removal alone.

He adds that a year from now, Houston will be seen as "shining star" for how a major U.S. city responds to a crippling natural disaster.

___

7:30 a.m.

The Navy has rescued 14 people and four dogs from a Texas shelter as floodwaters approached.

Video released by the Navy shows the seven adults, seven children and the animals crowded inside a Sea Hawk helicopter Thursday as they were flown from an elementary school in the town of Vidor to safety in nearby Beaumont.

The rescue was performed by a Navy Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron.

The rescue was a first for Aircrewman 2nd Class Jansen Schamp, who said in a news release that while it wasn't exactly what he had imagined, it will be one of his "most memorable experiences."

The military is lending a hand to federal, state and local authorities in Harvey relief efforts.

___

1 a.m.

As floodwaters recede, Houston officials have started turning their attention to finding temporary housing for those in shelters and getting enough gasoline for people to fill up cars.

Authorities on Thursday increased the toll of Harvey-related deaths to 39, and the Texas Department of Public Safety said more than 37,000 homes were heavily damaged and nearly 7,000 were destroyed.

About 325,000 people has already sought federal emergency aid, and FEMA officials said more than $57 million in individual assistance has been paid out thus far.

The greatest threat of damage shifted in recent days to a region near the Texas-Louisiana line. The city of Beaumont, Texas, lost water service when its main pump station was overwhelmed by the swollen Neches River.

___

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