Houston Housing Director Tom McCasland is urgently calling for short-term and long-term housing solutions for people displaced by Hurricane Harvey. Today, the Trump administration is expected to formally request that Congress provide $5.95 billion for response and initial recovery efforts. Congressional leaders have signaled that they may combine disaster relief with other must-pass legislation to lift the debt ceiling and to fund the government at the start of the new fiscal year. But, this approach has already been criticized by House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, who has called for tying deep spending cuts to any increase in the debt ceiling.
HUD Secretary Ben Carson, meanwhile, reaffirmed his agency’s long-term commitment to Houston’s recovery, saying that it is “a mammoth issue and it’s going to be something we’re going to be involved in for many months, and maybe even a few years.”
BY THE NUMBERS:
- 21,000 federal staff have been deployed to respond to the hurricane.
- More than 33,800 people sought refuge in more than 240 Red Cross and partner shelters in Texas. Six shelters are also open in Louisiana serving another 450 people.
- 8,000+ individuals have been placed in transitional housing at hotels.
- 364,000 applications for individual aid filed with FEMA, as of Thursday afternoon. $66.4 million in aid has been approved by FEMA for more than 103,000 individuals.
- 100,000+ homes were destroyed, according to Homeland Security advisors.
- SBA has received 1,218 disaster loan applications, the majority of which are for home disaster loans.
- 51,000 claims have been filed under FEMA’s Flood Insurance program.
- 42% of the state’s population lives in areas covered by the disaster proclamation.
LOCAL RESOURCES AND UPDATES:
- Status of Recovery and Principles for Disaster Response – Chrishelle Palay, Co-director of Texas LIHIS’s Houston Office, gives an update on recovery efforts underway in the city and the 7 principles that should guide the federal, state, and local response to Hurricane Harvey:
- Securing help from government is fair, easy and understandable and survivors have a say in the process.
- Everyone gets safe temporary housing where they can reconnect with family and community.
- Displaced people have access to the resources they need to lead normal lives
- Everyone is assisted to fully recover housing, personal property and transportation quickly.
- All homeowners are able to rebuild in safe, quality neighborhoods of their choice.
- Renters’ get quality, affordable rental property in safe, quality neighborhoods of their choice.
- All neighborhoods are free from environmental hazards with quality public infrastructure to keep them safe and resilient.
- Deaf ASL Interpreters: Anyone who needs a deaf interpreter should call the Harvey Interpreter Hotline at 281-845-4443 (text or VRS) or email DeafHarveySurvivors@gmail.com.
- Legal Aid Volunteers Needed: If you are an attorney licensed in Texas, an attorney licensed in another state, a law school graduate, a law student or a paralegal, you can volunteer by contacting Lone Star Legal Aid. No disaster experience needed.
- Scammers: Lone Star Legal Aid warns that scammers are using robo-calls to try to fleece storm survivors.
- Housing Vouchers: John Henneberger of Texas LIHIS encourages FEMA to build on a successful program implemented after Hurricane Katrina by providing apartment vouchers through a partnership with HUD.
- Vacant Units: While Houston had one of the lowest occupancy rates, most of the available vacant apartments that could house displaced individuals are expensive and are targeted to the luxury market.
- City of Houston: After a 2014 study found that Houston’s neighborhoods of color were inadequately protected from even modest storm events, the city took no action. Damage caused by Hurricane Harvey could have been mitigated.
- Disaster Declaration: FEMA issued its 3rd amendment to the Hurricane Harvey disaster declaration, adding Polk, Tyler, and Walker Counties.
- FEMA Mobile App: Download the FEMA mobile app to locate open shelters and disaster recovery centers, apply for assistance, receive alerts, or be put in touch with a FEMA representative.
- Sheltering and Immediate Housing Assistance: FEMA published a list of all federal housing resources available to victims of Hurricane Harvey, including Transitional Housing Assistance, Rental Assistance, Critical Needs Assistance, Disaster Unemployment Assistance, HUD Foreclosure Relief, Flood Insurance Advanced Payments, and SBA Loans to help repair flood-damaged homes.
- Update on Federal Response: FEMA published an update on September 1 on how each federal agency has responded, with links to resources.
- Social Media: Follow FEMA on Twitter for up-to-date information: @fema, @femaregion6, FEMA on Facebook, @FEMA_Brock (FEMA Administrator Brock Long), @FEMAspox (Deputy Director of Public Affairs Eileen Lainez)
- Flood Insurance: The CBO reports that premiums collected by the National Flood Insurance Program for policies in effect in August 2016 fell short of the program’s expected costs by $1.4 billion, mainly because of shortfalls in coastal counties.
HUD and USDA:
- HUD Grantees, Partners and Residents: HUD.gov and the HUD Exchange have added new pages to highlight important news, updates, and resources. Each page contains important links and information to aid residents affected by Hurricane Harvey, including where to find the nearest shelter, how to apply for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance, steps to care for your home post disaster, and other helpful resources, including:
- CDBG – Disaster Recovery Toolkit
- Disaster Recovery Homelessness Toolkit
- Disaster Recovery FAQs: Includes information for the public, HUD lenders, CPD grantees, organizations serving people experiencing homelessness, and public housing authorities.
- Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Disaster Toolkit
- Policy Development and Research Disaster Recovery Toolkit
- Secretary Carson: Sent a letter advising HUD employees that they can use up to 96 hours of administrative leave annually to volunteer in response to disaster, like Hurricane Harvey, or donate to Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund to help federal employees impacted by the storm. He noted that HUD will, “HUD will play a major role in the long-term recovery effort in the months, even years ahead.”
- USDA: FEMA is making housing vouchers available to displaced families in Texas impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Vouchers may be used at assisted properties with vacant units. USDA is encouraging owners of RD-financed properties with any vacant units that might be available on a temporary or permanent basis for displaced families to contact John.Carleton@fema.dhs.gov (202-870-4486) or Blair.McDonald@fema.dhs.gov (972-795-5795).
- LIHTC: The Tennessee Housing Development Agency has followed IRS guidance Rev. Proc. 2014-49 and waived all income restrictions on apartment units in its LIHTC program for victims of Hurricane Harvey.
- Tips and Tools: For reaching Limited English Proficiency Communities in emergency response and recovery.
- Rep. John Culberson: Published a Flood Recovery Resource Guide (attached), with information about federal assistance and tips for filing claims.
- Natural Disaster Legal Aid: Their resource center provides information and lists of legal aid, pro bono, and criminal defender attorneys working on legal issues relating to disasters.
- American Bar Association: Reach their Disaster Hotline at 1-800-504-7030 or visit their website for legal support.
- AirBNB: Their disaster response program, providing people displaced by the hurricane to stay with hosts for free, has been extended through September 25.
- Map of Flooded Streets: This crowd-sourced map shows which streets experienced flooding in Houston and other Gulf Coast communities. It’s already been viewed 770,000 times since Monday.
- Map of Flood Plain: NCRC produced a floodplain map of Harris County, Texas showing how areas at high-risk of flooding correspond with low and moderate income areas and communities of color.
- Bank Regulators: NCRC’s factsheet explains how banks and lenders can respond to this disaster.
- Tracking Rescue Calls: This map shows where rescue calls were made leading up to and during Hurricane Harvey.