Disaster Housing Recovery Update, Friday, October 20, 2017

Congress

  • Senators Blumenthal (D-CT) and Cassidy (R-LA) sent a letter to FEMA Administrator Brock Long requesting that he immediately enter an Interagency Agreement with HUD to ensure survivors of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria have access to stable, affordable rental homes. With this agreement, HUD would be able to utilize its existing programs and network of Public Housing Agencies to help impacted families. Senator Murphy (D-CT) also is circulating a Dear Colleague letter asking fellow Senators to join him in urging FEMA to work with HUD to stand up a Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP) for impacted low income renters.
  • The Senate recessed before bringing the disaster supplemental spending bill to the floor for a vote. The bill will go to the Senate Rules Committee on Monday afternoon, setting it up for a possible Senate vote on Tuesday. At this point, it looks like the bill will not include additional funding requested by the Florida and Texas delegations, including significant additional funding for CDBG-DR. Instead, Speaker Ryan, Senate Majority Leader McConnell and the president have said such funding will be included in a third supplemental spending bill to be requested by the White House before the end of the year. Senators Cornyn (R-TX) and Nelson (D-FL) put a hold on the president’s nominee for a senior OMB position saying, “I’m disappointed that the president has nixed the disaster money for Florida’s citrus growers and others. He said it will be included in a November supplemental instead. So I just put a hold on one of his nominees to make sure we get this money, as promised.”

Department of Homeland Security

The DHS Office of the Inspector General issued a management alert citing concerns with FEMA’s contract with the state of Texas for a housing assistance program. The OIG calls the Texas housing assistance program a “high risk program that, without adequate controls, could be vulnerable to favoritism, collusion and fraud, waste and abuse.” As an example, the OIG cites the lack of approval authorities and physical inspections required by the program.

HUD

  • More than 500 organizations signed the letter to HUD urging that CDBG-DR funds continue to be targeted towards the housing needs of the lowest income households and that impacted people have adequate time to weigh in on how states and local governments use the recovery and rebuilding funding. The final letter is here: http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/Letter_in_Support_of_Equitable_CDBG_102317.pdf. It will be sent to HUD and the Hill first thing on Monday.
  • The issue with HUD possibly suspending subsidies for units without utilities in Puerto Rico and the USVI is still unresolved. HUD finds that it is prohibited from paying Section 8 subsidies on such units because they cannot be considered “decent, safe, and sanitary.” Suspending payments will present a significant challenge for property owners who have done all they can to bring in money, generators, etc., to keep the units safe under extraordinary circumstances. About 20,000 housing units in 203 projects on the Puerto Rico receive project-based subsidies to provide affordable housing. A HUD spokesman said, “Due to the ongoing and unique circumstances in Puerto Rico, we’re reviewing every available option to assist residents during this difficult time.” The National Association of Realtors and the Institute for Real Estate Management sent a letter of concern to HUD saying, “Without the federal portion of the rent, many of these properties will simply fail, and this stock of affordable housing will be lost.”
  • Voucher Portability. HUD’s Office of Public and Indian Housing sent an email to public housing agencies (PHAs) providing interim guidance for addressing Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) residents from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands who wish to move with their voucher (port) to another PHA on the mainland. Under the HCV program, a voucher household may move to any jurisdiction that has a PHA that administers an HCV program and receive voucher assistance under the portability procedures of the program. According to the email, as of October 6, all PHAs in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are considered “non-operational.” The current list of non-operational PHAs is at: http://bit.ly/2l2eza7.

Until HUD develops more detailed guidance, PHAs are instructed to follow an alternative portability process described in the email when contacted by a household from Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands wishing to exercise portability but their “initial” PHA is non-operational and therefore unable to carry out its administrative responsibilities due to the disaster. The “receiving” PHA may choose to either absorb the household into its own HCV program or choose to a bill. Given the operational challenges billing presents in the case of non-operational PHAs, HUD encourages the receiving PHA to absorb the household. If the receiving PHA chooses to bill, HUD will pay the receiving PHA directly.

HUD notes that it is likely that a displaced household’s income may have been negatively impacted by the disaster and subsequent move. Therefore, the receiving PHA may need to conduct a new income reexamination for the household but must not delay issuance of the voucher or approval of the unit. HUD stresses that communication disruptions or portability billing concerns should not get in the way of assisting displaced HCV households from Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands. HUD will make sure that PHAs are paid for legitimate portability moves from the impacted areas.

General Update

Disaster Support for Seniors Hotline. National Church Residences and LeadingAge have a hotline for people over the age of 55 to answer disaster-related questions and make referrals. The toll-free number is 844-259-4747, and a web form is available at seniorhotline.org. In addition, the two organizations ask those with available housing to notify them at seniorhelp@nationalchurchresidences.org, indicating the name of the community or housing, address, rent amount, and willingness to provide short-term housing.


CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES

 By the Numbers: (as of 10/20)

  • 9 wildfires
  • 245,000 acres burned
  • 6,900 structures destroyed
  • 42 deaths
  • 15,000+ people remain evacuated

USDA

SNAP Recipients Receive Relief. The U.S. Department of Agriculture USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service announced that Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households impacted by the recent wildfires in Northern California will receive support to replace food lost in the disaster and to purchase hot foods at SNAP-authorized retailers through November 15.

  • SNAP participants in 13 counties can purchase hot foods with SNAP benefits.
  • SNAP households in specific zip codes in six counties will automatically receive replacement of 60% of their October SNAP benefit. These replacement benefits are intended to cover food purchased earlier in the month and then lost in the disaster. Where automatic benefit replacement is not available, a household may contact the local SNAP office and file a written claim for food lost in the disaster.
  • USDA extended the 10-day timeframe for submitting claims to November 8 for eight counties.

HURRICANE MARIA

FEMA

Puerto Rico

 By the Numbers: (as of 10/20)

  • 182,373 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved*
  • $98,253,592 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
  • $12,715,818 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
  • $85,537,774 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*
  • $336,240,256 Public Assistance Grants (PA) obligated** all of which are for Emergency Work (Categories A-B)

*Assistance dollars approved but not necessarily disbursed.

**Funds made available to the State via electronic transfer following FEMA’s final review and approval of Public Assistance projects.

Individual Assistance Numbers: (as of 10/16)

  • 375,264 referrals
  • 246,387 pending applications
  • 31 withdrawn
  • 13,296 ineligible

 

  • Disaster Unemployment Assistance. Individuals who lost their livelihood because of either Hurricanes Irma or Maria may be eligible for FEMA funded Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA). The benefit applies to those who were employees or self-employed. Claims must be filed before November 13.
  • $70 Million for Water Infrastructure. FEMA awarded the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA) $70 million for emergency work. PRASA is the primary water and sewer provider for the government of Puerto Rico. Since most of the island is still without power, generators at these facilities must be utilized around the clock in order to avoid a potential public health crisis.
  • $128 million More for Electrical Infrastructure. FEMA awarded an additional $128 million for emergency work conducted by the Puerto Rico Electric and Power Authority (PREPA). These funds are in addition to the more than $213 million previously awarded for other emergency work.

Local Perspective

State of Florida Webpage with Puerto Rico Disaster Information. The Florida Division of Disaster Management has created a webpage providing information to Florida residents because so many have family and friends in Puerto Rico.

U.S. Virgin Islands

 By the Numbers: (as of 10/20)

  • 2,515 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved*
  • $1,543,446 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
  • $291,175 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
  • $1,243,271 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*
  • $13,010,427 Emergency Work (Categories A-B) dollars obligated**

*Assistance dollars approved but not necessarily disbursed.

**Funds made available to the State via electronic transfer following FEMA’s final review and approval of Public Assistance projects.

Individual Assistance Numbers: (as of 10/16)

  • 8,788 referrals
  • 6,393 pending applications
  • 2 withdrawn
  • 513 ineligible

 

Deadline to Apply for Blue Roof. Residents have until November 3 to apply for free temporary roofing repairs to their homes through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Operation Blue Roof.


HURRICANE IRMA

FEMA

 Florida

 By the Numbers: (as of 10/20)

  • 697,513 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved*
  • $796,214,544 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
  • $539,914,143 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
  • $256,300,401 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*

*Assistance dollars approved but not necessarily disbursed.

Individual Assistance Numbers: (as of 10/16)

  • 1,799,790 referrals
  • 697,467 pending applications
  • 23,922 withdrawn
  • 431,760 ineligible

 

  • November 9 Deadline to Apply for Individual Assistance. FEMA provides reminders of upcoming application deadlines, including November 9 for people to apply for Individual Assistance (IA). Other important application deadlines include: October 31 for Disaster Unemployment Assistance, December 9 for immediate foreclosure relief, October 31 for Requests for Public Assistance (RPA), and November 9 for SBA low-interest loans.
  •  Applying for Extension of Rental Assistance. People registered with FEMA and receiving rental assistance through the Individual and Households Program (IHP) may be eligible to apply for continued rental assistance. Rental assistance extensions run for three-month periods not to exceed 18 months from the date of the disaster declaration as long as the household remains eligible.

 Georgia

 By the Numbers: (as of 10/20)

  • 8,272 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved*
  • $10,524,857 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
  • $7,533,813 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
  • $2,991,044 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*

*Assistance dollars approved but not necessarily disbursed.

Individual Assistance Numbers: (as of 10/16)

  • 26,420 referrals
  • 12,766 pending applications
  • 437 withdrawn
  • 5,727 ineligible

 

  • Two November 14 Deadlines. People seven counties have until November 14 to register with FEMA for Individual Assistance (IA). November 14 is also the deadline for renters, homeowners, nonprofits, and businesses to apply to SBA for low-interest loans.
  • Disaster Declaration Amended. Twenty-nine additional counties are now eligible for Public Assistance (Categories C-G), which provides funding for permanent work. These counties were already eligible for debris removal and emergency protective measures (PA Categories A and B).

Puerto Rico

By the Numbers: (as of 10/20)

  • 586 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved*
  • $1,359,030 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
  • $681,894 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
  • $677,136 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*

*Assistance dollars approved but not necessarily disbursed.

Individual Assistance Numbers: (as of 10/16)

  • 2,262 referrals
  • 1,263 pending applications
  • 35 withdrawn
  • 446 ineligible

U.S. Virgin Islands

 By the Numbers: (as of 10/20)

  • 2,831 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved*
  • $2,648,020 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
  • $1,141,432 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
  • $1,506,587 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*
  • $25,056,945 Public Assistance (PA), all of which is for Emergency Work (Categories A-B) obligated**

*Assistance dollars approved but not necessarily disbursed.

**Funds made available to the state via electronic transfer following FEMA’s final review and approval of Public Assistance projects.

Individual Assistance Numbers: (as of 10/16)

  • 8,351 referrals
  • 5,308 pending applications
  • 22 withdrawn
  • 762 ineligible

HURRICANE HARVEY

 FEMA

 Texas

By the Numbers: (as of 10/20)

  • 334,782 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved*
  • $1,245,896,264 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
  • $970,913,039 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
  • $274,983,224 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*
  • $400,362,511 Public Assistance Grants (PA) obligated** all of which are for Emergency Work (Categories A-B)

* Assistance dollars approved but not necessarily disbursed.

** Funds made available to the State via electronic transfer following FEMA’s final review and approval of Public Assistance projects.

Individual Assistance Numbers: (as of 10/16)

  • 718,566 referrals
  • 140,080 pending applications
  • 37,192 withdrawn
  • 231,319 ineligible
  • Assistance Registration Deadline Extended. Residents of the 41 designated counties now have until Friday, November 24 to register for disaster assistance.

Local Perspective

Four Small Town Mayors Concerns. The mayors of four Texas Gulf Coast cities devastated by Hurricane Harvey, Port Aransas, Victoria, Rockport, and Port Lavaca discussed the storm’s effects with The Texas Tribune.

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