Affected by Ruidoso fires? Here are financial resources to help

Unemployment, FEMA and insurance aid available


Jim McGarvey has worked at the Western NAPA Auto Parts store in the Village of Ruidoso for 46 years. Thirteen years ago, he and his wife Shelley bought the store.

On June 17, though, the couple had to evacuate along with their seven employees and the town’s approximately 7,800 other residents as the South Fork and Salt forest fires barreled down on the village.

Shelley said they’ve been through forest fires before, but “this is the worst ever.”

After evacuating to stay with family in Las Cruces, the McGarveys returned to Ruidoso to open their store for emergency personnel and their vehicles. It was partially open.

“(They need) batteries and parts and different things,” Shelley said.

Authorities began letting Ruidoso residents return Monday, June 24. There were some snags.

“For residents only; they have had checkpoints checking everyone,” Shelley said. “Our employees are back. Two of them couldn’t get in because of the addresses on their licenses. They said ‘Alto’ instead of ‘Ruidoso,’ but they got to come back today.”

Shelley said business has not returned to normal, though.

“There are definitely more locals than before, but it will be a slow process,” she said. “We’re still dealing with no phone, no internet, and very spotty cell service.”

Still, though, many other businesses are starting to open.

Shelley says that the damage is not visible from the road in a lot of places.

“If you went through the main part of town, Midtown and Mechem, it would be difficult to understand the catastrophic damage,” she said.

Some 1,400 structures are estimated to have been damaged or destroyed. Domestic and wild animals are roaming the streets.

“There’s horses all over the place,” she said. “There’s been some right in front of the store. I saw an elk in town eating from a tree. We’ve been setting out dog food” for displaced animals.

Shelley said theirs wasn’t the only business to open to help.

“Some people showed up to open the Albertsons so people could get food. Bless them,” she said.

The McGarveys aren’t alone in experiencing a disruption to their income. Employees across the village lost work. And, while donations are helping alleviate the strain, some residents have said the out-of-pocket expenses they incurred while evacuating have been a hardship. Homeowners and business owners will be consulting insurance companies over their losses.

Here are several resources that can help if you were affected by the fires.

Unemployment assistance

The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions hopes to soon begin offering Disaster Unemployment claims.

“If your employment has been affected by the South Fork or Salt fires the department is waiting for federal approval and guidance to begin taking claims,” the NMDWS reports.

In the meantime, you may file a Standard Unemployment Insurance claim, which will be the first step in the process.

You can do so online at or via phone at 1-877-664-6984 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday. Do not reach out to the Workforce Connections Center in Ruidoso, though. It is closed. The fire resource hot line is 1-833-663-4736.

You are eligible for the Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) if:

  • You were employed, self-employed or were scheduled to begin work but are not able to work due to the disaster.
  •  Are unable to reach your place of employment due to disaster related conditions.
  • You can no longer work due to physical damage to your place of employment.
  • If you can establish that your employment was your principal source of income.
  • You cannot work because you were injured as a direct result of the disaster.
  • If you became the breadwinner or major support of the household because of the death of the primary breadwinner of the household due to the disaster.

The DUA weekly benefits are payable only within the Disaster Assistance Period determined by the federal disaster declaration imposed by the president.

Insurance aid available

Shelley said despite the sudden downturn in business, they still have financial responsibilities.

“We’re not sure what’s going to happen,” Shelley said. “We’re talking to our insurance company right now.”

If you’re having trouble reaching your insurance company or accessing your policy, you can reach out to the office of the New Mexico Superintendent of Insurance at 1-833-485-1336 or go online to

New Mexico Superintendent of Insurance Alice Kane issued an emergency order on June 18.

“This is necessary to protect access to insurance and the stability of the insurance markets during the emergency,” Kane said. “Residents who have left their homes may have lost access to records and documents that would assist them in filing claims.”

The State of New Mexico has ordered insurers who write property, homeowner, automobile, or healthcare policies for the next 120 days shall:

  • Provide a grace period for payment of premiums and offer a payment plan.
  • Waive deductibles.
  • Postpone cancellations and non-renewals.
  • Extend reporting requirements for claim submissions.

Contact the New Mexico Office of the Superintendent of Insurance at for additional information.

Fire and flood insurance

Severe thunderstorms in recent days have caused flooding in burn scars in the area.

“There’s been a lot of black, sooty water and flooding from the rain,” Shelley said.

Most fire damage is covered by standard insurance policies. However, flood damage typically is not and requires a separate policy.

“A standard homeowners policy covers destruction and damage caused by fire, which includes wildfires,” reports the Insurance Information Institute.

On its website,, the institute reports the typical business owner’s policy covers property fire damage to the building, office space and equipment and inventory. Business income, or business interruption, insurance (BI) covers the profits a business would have earned, as well as the additional operating expenses incurred as a result of the disaster (such as the cost of operating out of a temporary location).

As for flood damage, though, there is no coverage for flooding in standard homeowners or renter’s policies or in most commercial property insurance policies according to the Institute. 

Disaster aid 

The State of New Mexico’s Disaster Case Managers and representatives of other state agencies are available to coordinate resources at the Roswell Convention and Civics Center from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., six days a week at 912 N. Main St., Roswell, NM 88201.

On Thursday, President Biden declared a major disaster in New Mexico, authorizing federal aid to assist state, tribal and local recovery efforts.

Federal assistance will be available to individuals in Lincoln County and the Mescalero Apache Tribe, including grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and additional programs aimed at helping individuals and business owners recover from the disaster, the White House posted on its website.

Affected residents and business owners can apply for assistance at, by calling 800-621-FEMA (3362), or through the FEMA App.

Brook Stockberger is a freelance writer based in Las Cruces. The Southern New Mexico Journalism Collaborative is a partnership of local newsrooms working together to cover important topics in the southern half of the state. More info: or