Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Tuesday, September 12, 2017

CONGRESS

  • Supporting recovery. Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stated: “Congress passed a critical down payment on disaster relief last week. If more assistance is required due to Irma, we are ready to do what is needed.” Minority Leader Chuck Schumer also stated willingness to speedily pass new relief funding if necessary.

HURRICANE IRMA

DISASTER DECLARATIONS

Florida

Two amendments were made on September 11 to the initial disaster declaration, enabling people in eight more counties, for a total of 17, eligible to apply for Individual Assistance (IA).

The Seminole Tribe declaration of emergency now has a FEMA Hurricane Irma webpage (EM-3388). The Hollywood Indian Reservation is eligible to apply for Public Assistance (PA). 

Alabama

President Trump made an emergency declaration for all 67 Alabama counties and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians on September 11. This authorizes FEMA to provide emergency protective measures (Category B), including direct federal assistance under the Public Assistance (PA) program with the federal government covering 75% of the cost. FEMA has an Alabama Hurricane Irma webpage (EM-3389).  Warren Riley was named the Federal Coordinating Officer. 

Georgia

Two amendments were made to the initial emergency declaration, one on September 10 and another on September 11, enabling an additional 129 counties eligible to apply for Public Assistance (PA). 

USDA

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) approved a temporary waiver and supported other actions that will help households participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in Florida, Georgia, and the Virgin Islands as well as the Nutrition Assistance Program in Puerto Rico access food in the wake of Hurricane Irma, including:

  • Allowing SNAP participants in Florida to buy hot foods and hot ready-to-eat foods with their benefits through September 30.
  • Supporting Florida’s plan to issue all September SNAP benefits on September 7 and Georgia’s plan to issue all remaining benefits for September on September 10. Both actions will ensure families have access to their monthly benefits sooner.
  • Supporting Puerto Rico’s action to issue all September Nutrition Assistance Program benefits on September 5.

FNS is working closely with the affected states and territories to be ready, if appropriate, to make use of the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) to offer continuing food assistance after commercial channels of food distribution have been restored and families are able to prepare food at home. 

LOCAL PERSPECTIVES

  • Miami Public Housing. With the closure of a public housing development due to potential mold concerns, residents, many of whom are older Latinos, are left at the mercy of local agencies. Public transportation in the county has been halted, so these residents are left with few options.
  • Damage in Florida and South Carolina. An estimated 25% of homes in the Florida Keys were destroyed with another 65% suffering major damage. Road blockades into the Keys have been lifted, allowing residents back to return to their homes. Jacksonville and Charleston, SC are also dealing with flooding. Authorities rescued almost 400 people in Jacksonville yesterday.
  • Power down in PR. While most of Puerto Rico escaped Hurricane Irma’s power, much of the capital city of San Juan is still without power.
  • Crisis in Virgin Islands. An estimated 80% of structures on the island of St. John have suffered extensive damage. The U.S. military has deployed service members to help with relief efforts, and supplies from the mainland are being delivered. Food and other resources remain limited.

HURRICANE HARVEY 

FEMA

  • By the Numbers: (As of Tuesday afternoon)
    • 223,246 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved*
    • $305,046,333 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
    • $180,665,906 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
    • $124,380,417 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*
    • $181,034,279 Public Assistance (PA) approved*

*Assistance dollars approved but not necessarily disbursed.

  • Disaster Recovery Center. A mobile DRC opened in Wharton.
  • FEMA Hiring Texas Residents. In partnership with the State, FEMA is hiring workers across Texas for administrative, logistical, and technical jobs related to hurricane recovery. Jobs posted recently pay between $14 and $34 per hour. Some of the jobs include: administrative support assistant, civil engineer, communications specialist, construction cost estimator, courier, crisis counselor, customer service specialist, environmental specialist, floodplain management specialist, graphics specialist, hazard mitigation outreach specialist, historic preservation specialist, registered nurse, voluntary agency liaison, among others. Those interested should register at com, the Texas Workforce Commission’s website, where application instructions are posted. FEMA will announce more jobs soon.
  • Fact Sheet on Renter Assistance. A FEMA fact sheet reminds renters that they could be eligible for disaster recovery assistance from FEMA and SBA. Renters may be eligible for FEMA grants to help with such disaster-related expenses as:
  • Renting a home when the renter’s previous one is uninhabitable due to the disaster.
  • Disaster-related medical and dental expenses.
  • Replacement or repair of necessary personal property lost or damaged in the disaster, such as appliances and furniture, textbooks and computers used by students, and work equipment or tools used by the self-employed.
  • Repair or replacement of vehicles damaged by the disaster.
  • Disaster-related funeral and burial expenses.

FEMA grants do not have to be repaid. They are not taxable income and will not affect eligibility for Social Security, Medicaid, welfare assistance, SNAP benefits, and several other programs.

Renters may qualify for a low-interest SBA loan of up to $40,000 to repair or replace personal property. 

  • Fact Sheet: Why Return an SBA Loan Application. A FEMA fact sheet provides guidance regarding receipt of an SBA loan application. It indicates that after someone applies for FEMA disaster assistance, they might be contacted by SBA and asked to submit an application for a low-interest SBA disaster loan. Eligible households do not have to accept an SBA loan.

Those who do not qualify for an SBA loan will be referred back to FEMA for consideration for other FEMA grants or Other Needs Assistance (ONA) which covers items such as disaster-related car repairs, clothing, household items and other expenses. Households cannot be considered for these FEMA grants unless an SBA loan application is submitted. However, some types of Other Needs Assistance, such as medical, dental, and funeral expenses do not depend on completing the SBA application.

The filing deadline to return SBA loan applications for property damage is October 24, 2017, and the deadline to return economic injury applications is May 25, 2018.

  • Helping People who Have Disabilities. A FEMA fact sheet explains that it:
    • Can provide sign language interpreters and materials in alternate formats, such as Braille, large print and electronic formats.
  • Has amplified telephones, phones that display text, and amplified listening devices for people with hearing loss. Magnifiers are available for people with vision loss.
  • Makes Video Remote Interpreting available at Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs), and that in-person sign language is available by request. DRCs also have accessible parking, ramps, and restrooms.
  • If FEMA is participating in a local event, anyone has the right to request reasonable accommodations to support their communication needs. FEMA can provide services such as sign language interpretation and captioning if a request is made through the meeting or event host.

LOCAL PERSPECTIVES

  • Many in the Houston area remain displaced, staying at a shelter or loved ones’ homes. Over 1,000 remained at the George R. Brown Convention Center as of Friday. Others have been forced to return to their water-damaged home, despite health risks.
  • Shortage in Port Arthur. Landlords are evicting tenants because of water damage to the units. Many residents have evacuated to Dallas and are unaware of the eviction. Large numbers of evictions will cause a housing shortage in the city.
  • Houston housing shortage. People in the Houston area have been scrambling to rent any available units, especially because many properties were offering several months of free rent. Homes for sale, especially raised homes, are also in high demand with prices rising accordingly.
  • Unaffordability. Due to the housing shortage, Houston, a city that has remained relatively affordable despite rapid growth, may see housing prices rise over the next few years.
  • Help from Louisiana. Officials from Louisiana are using their experiences with last year’s floods to assist Texas with the process of re-housing people, including providing insight to their Shelter at Home program and working with FEMA.

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