Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Monday, September 11, 2017

CONGRESS

Votes Postponed. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) postponed any votes in the House today due to the large number of absences resulting from Hurricane Irma.

HURRICANE IRMA

LOCAL PERSPECTIVES

  • Public Housing Damage. The Director of the U.S. Virgin Islands Housing Authority reports that Virgin Islands Housing Authority Central Office may not be able to reopen due to significant damage. The public housing authority has nine public housing communities on St. Thomas with 1,472 units. One development, TuTu High-Rise with 300 units, was devastated with approximately 100 units uninhabitable. They are working with HUD to secure emergency vouchers to relocate residents.
  • Homeless forcibly removed. In Miami, any person experiencing homelessness that did not willingly go to a storm shelter was warned they  would be detained at a psychiatric institution. Dade County invoked the Baker Act to hold at least six people against their will. NARPA issued a statement opposing this tactic.
  • Inequality. While wealthier Miami residents have the luxury of generators and storm proof windows, low income residents stay because they have no option. Historically, county and city relief efforts reach these communities slowly.

DISTASTER DELCARATIONS

FLORIDA

President Trump issued a major disaster declaration for Florida on September 10. FEMA has a webpage for Florida Hurricane Irma (DR-3347). In addition, Mr. Trump declared  on September 8 that an emergency exists for the Seminole Tribe of Florida and ordered Federal assistance to supplement the Tribe’s response efforts. Specifically, debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, will be provided at 75% federal funding.

All 67 counties in Florida are eligible to apply for Public Assistance (PA), making federal funds available to state, tribal, and eligible local governments, as well as certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance. For the 30-day period following the disaster declaration, assistance for emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, is authorized at 100% of the total eligible costs (instead of the standard 75%). Hazard Mitigation Grants are also available for all 67 counties at the 75% cost-sharing rate.

People in nine counties are eligible to apply for Individual Assistance (IA), which can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster. The forms of assistance include:

  • Rental payments for temporary housing. Initial assistance may be provided for up to three months for homeowners and at least one month for renters. Assistance may be extended after the initial period based on a review of individual applicant requirements.
  • Grants for home repairs and replacement of essential household items not covered by insurance to make damaged dwellings safe, sanitary, and functional.
  • Grants to replace personal property and help meet medical, dental, funeral, transportation, and other serious disaster-related needs not covered by insurance or other federal, municipality, and charitable aid programs.
  • Unemployment payments for up to 26 weeks for workers who temporarily lost jobs because of the disaster and who do not qualify for state benefits, such as self-employed individuals.
  • Low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA) to cover residential losses not fully compensated by insurance. Loans are available of up to $200,000 for primary residence, and of up to $40,000 for personal property, including renter losses. Loans are available up to $2 million for business property losses not fully compensated by insurance.
  • Loans from SBA of up to $2 million for small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, and most nonprofit organizations of all sizes that have suffered disaster-related cash flow problems and need funds for working capital to recover from the disaster’s adverse economic impact. This loan in combination with a property loss loan cannot exceed $2 million.
  • Loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency of up to $500,000 for farmers, ranchers, and aquaculture operators to cover production and property losses, excluding primary residence.
  • Other relief programs, including: crisis counseling for those traumatized by the disaster; income tax assistance for filing casualty losses; and advisory assistance for legal, veterans’ benefits, and social security matters.

U.S. Virgin Islands

On September 10, the disaster declaration was modified to authorize 90% federal cost-share for debris removal, including direct federal assistance, and a 100% federal cost-share for emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance. These percentages will be in effect for 30 days from the start of the incident period, afterward a 90% federal cost-share will be applied (the standard ratio is 75%). FEMA has a webpage for Virgin Islands Hurricane Irma (DR-4335).

Puerto Rico

Mr. Trump issued a major disaster declaration for Puerto Rico on September 10, making Individual Assistance available for people in the municipalities of Culebra and Vieques, and making Public Assistance available at a 75% federal cost-share for those two municipalities. FEMA has a webpage Puerto Rico Hurricane Irma (DR-4336).

HURRICANE HARVEY

FEMA

By the Numbers (as of Sunday evening):

  • 218,701 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved
  • $284,087,432 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
  • $163,917,266 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
  • $120,701,166 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*
  • $151,224,778 Public Assistance (PA) approved*

*Assistance dollars approved but not necessarily disbursed.

Disaster Recovery Centers. Six more Disaster Recovery Center were opened: Baytown, Dallas, a second DRC in Houston, Katy, Magnolia, and Simonton.

USDA

D-SNAP. Texans recovering from Hurricane Harvey could be eligible for disaster food benefits from the USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) through the availability of Disaster SNAP (D-SNAP) announced on September 11 by USDA and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

D-SNAP eligible households in the affected areas will receive two months of benefits, equivalent to the maximum amount of benefits normally issued to a SNAP household of their size, to meet their food needs as they settle back home following the disaster. To be eligible for D-SNAP, a household must live in an identified disaster area, have been affected by the disaster, and meet certain D-SNAP eligibility criteria. Texas Health and Human Services Commission will announce D-SNAP dates, and locations through the local media.

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