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10 minutes after NC9 report, State Farm agrees to reinspect tornado-hit Holly Hills home

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Cheryll Smith is all smiles as she shows off her "Holly Hills Strong" bracelets (Image: WTVC){ }

UPDATE (Monday, September 21):

Life can change in a matter of minutes.

Tornado survivor Cheryll Smith knows that all too well.

"A lot has happened in a week," said Smith.

We first brought this Holly Hills homeowner's story last week.

For five months, she's lived with boarded up windows and other storm damage, because she says her insurance shortchanged her estimate.

After a NewsChannel 9 report, we found out the company, State Farm, changed their tune.

"I'm sure you altered state farm and it really has caused some reaction," said Smith.

Ten minutes after our story aired, Smith says she got the call she'd been waiting on for five months.

She says State Farm is going to give his homeowner a second inspection.

"As people usually say, you go from the bottom of the pile to the top of the pile," said Smith.

We reached State Farm again Monday to find out if our story helped sparked this change.

Citing privacy reasons, they did not tell us.

But did they did say reached out to Smith last week, and that is "most likely" the movement in the claim.

You can read State Farm's full response here:

Thanks for reaching back out. As we shared earlier, we would not be able to comment about the specifics of any customer’s claim for privacy reasons, therefore would not be able to specifically address your question about inspections. I can share that a second inspection is routinely offered at the customer’s request and whenever evidence of additional or hidden damage develops. Additionally, I can highlight that we shared with you that we were actively evaluating the claim, and we were reviewing just received information from the customer’s Public Adjuster. I indicated we were reaching out to our customer and her PA to provide the latest updated information about their claim. This most likely is the movement in the claim the customer has indicated to you. Our customer is free to share her claim information with you should she choose, however, we still protect the privacy of our customer and claims.Other survivors are still fighting.

Hamilton County Commissioner Sabrena Smedley says they're working to find people in need with the 211 hotline.

"We know they're out there," said Smedley.

Last week, the county announced the new partnership with United Way to expand the 211 hotline.

To say the least, they're still working out the kinks.

"I did have some calls from constituents that tried to call. One gentleman shared that he waited over an hour," said Smedley.

Smedley says she followed up with that man, and he eventually got connected to the right resources.

She is asking residents calling 211 to be patient.

"They're not only dealing with the tornado relief. They're also dealing with COVID-19 and other things as well," said Smedley.

The county is hoping to put together a list of those in need.

That way, more tornado survivors will have someone to help them in their fight to rebuild.

"Nobody can repay me for the pain and anguish and mental stress of living in a boarded up house for five months and knowing nothing has been resolved," said Smith.

Commissioner Smedley says the non-profit Samaritan's Purse is ready to build 20 new houses right now.

She says just need to know who needs them.

"We're doing everything we can to get assessments," said Smedley.

According to the Tennessee Insurance Commission, 17 people impacted by the Easter Sunday tornado made a complaint to the state.

The state says two of those were settled, one was overturned, seven received compromised settlements and the company's position was substantiated on the rest.

UPDATE (Wednesday, September 16):

Public adjuster Jeffery Whittington says after our story aired Tuesday, State Farm called Cheryll Smith and scheduled a second inspection of her home.

See Bliss Zechman's full report below.

ORIGINAL STORY (Tuesday, September 15):

Families find themselves still in need of help, five months after the Easter tornadoes devastated our area.

The Holly Hills neighborhood in Chattanooga was one of the hardest hit areas.

While most families were able to clean up and start rebuilding, others are facing an uphill battle.

Bliss Zechman spoke to one woman who says her insurance would not fix her storm-damaged home.

Now, help will soon be available to others in her situation.

It's been five months since an EF-3 tornado slammed Cheryll Smith's home.

"All I could hear was debris hitting the house all around," said Cheryll Smith.

Since that night, the neighborhood around her has changed considerably, but Smith says that's not the case for her.

"Still structurally, the bricks are coming off. There are cracked bricks. Some brick is separated from structure of house," said Smith.

Smith blames the roadblocks on her insurance company, State Farm.

She hired public adjuster Jeffery Whittington to take a closer look at her policy.

Whittington says Smith's home has nearly $75,000 in damages, while documents show State Farm estimates nearly half that.

"She can't get the repairs completed until the amount of funds are shown in black and white," said Jeffery Whittington.

On top of that, after half a century as a policyholder with State Farm, a letter Smith provided shows the company cut its ties with Smith.

"State farm is a good neighbor unless you need them," said Smith.

She's not the only tornado survivor still fighting to stay afloat.

"With all of the devastation, it's going to take years to really clean this community up," said Hamilton County Commissioner Sabrena Smedley.

Tuesday, local leaders announced a new initiate to help tornado survivors who have fallen through the cracks.

"But now we don't know what the real needs are. People are displaced, but you can't leave a letter if there's not a mailbox there," said Smedley.

Commissioner Smedley says the 211 hotline can help people who didn't have insurance, have been scammed, need volunteer help, and people like Smith whose insurance only paid to get part of the job done.

"I can almost tell you what kind of insurance everyone in Holly Hills has. I can tell you who they're pleased with and who they are not pleased with," said Smith.

Smith has filed a complaint with the State Insurance Commissioner, but action takes time.

We took Smith's concerns straight to State Farm.

A representative says, in part, they are unable to share specifics of the claim, citing privacy issues.

However, the company says they are actively evaluating the claim, and are reviewing new information they recently received.

You can read State Farm spokesperson Mikal Brower's full response to NewsChannel 9 below:

"While I am unable to speak to the specifics of this claim due to customer privacy reasons, I can share that this is an active claim, and we are communicating with our customer and her public adjuster in compliance with the communication guidelines in place regarding a customer/public adjuster relationship. (When a policyholder hires a public adjuster, it is usually though a signed contract allowing the public adjuster to represent the policyholder in claim discussions and we honor that process.) I can share that we are actively evaluating the claim, and are reviewing recently received information. We are reaching out to our customer and her PA to provide the latest updated information about their claim. Each claim is unique, and we work with our customers to help them understand the facts of their loss, identify their applicable coverage, and ultimately resolve their claim."
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