Disaster Housing Recovery Update, Monday, December 11, 2017

CONGRESS

  • Calls are needed in advance of Wednesday’s Conference Committee on tax reform legislation. The NLIHC delivered a letter to members of the conference committee.  It raises concerns that proposals in the tax reform bill could impact disaster recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida, Georgia, and the Virgin Islands after Hurricanes Harvey, Maria, and Irma and with the wild fires in California.  A final bill is expected to go before each chamber for a vote next week before Congress adjourns for the Christmas break. Contact your members of Congress today and tell them to vote no on any tax reform legislation that would explode the debt by giving hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts to the wealthy, worsen our nation’s affordable housing crisis, and jeopardize disaster housing recovery.
  • Senators Request Investigation. A group of seven Senators sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security’s Acting Inspector General John Kelly on December 5. The letter called on Kelly to investigate the $30 million contract with Bronze Star to supply tarps following Hurricane Maria. Although FEMA has terminated the contract, the Senators requested information on FEMA’s decision-making process for the Bronze Star deal.

CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES

FEMA

  • New Emergency Declaration. President Trump signed an Emergency Declaration on December 8 for five counties in southern California. This declaration makes federal emergency aid available to assist state and local response efforts. The covered counties are Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Ventura.  The President’s action authorizes FEMA to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency.  Emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, will be provided at 75 percent federal funding.

HURRICANE MARIA

FEMA

  • FEMA Assistance Deadline Extended. The deadline has been extended to January 8 for survivors of hurricanes Irma and Maria in the U.S. Virgin Islands to register with FEMA. The registration deadline has been extended to individuals and families to apply for grants for rental assistance, essential home repairs, personal property losses and other serious disaster-related needs not covered by insurance. FEMA encourages everyone affected by to register for assistance.
  • Direct Leasing in USVI. FEMA has authorized Direct Leasing in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Direct Leasing program allows FEMA to rent housing units directly from private owners to provide survivors with housing. FEMA also pays for utilities as part of the agreement. The agency is currently seeking properties that meet their safety standards.

Local Perspectives

  • Incomplete Death Count. Although the official death count in Puerto Rico is 64, others estimate as many as 1,052 have died as a result of the storm. Many of these deaths are due to lack of power, inability to access health services, and greater exposure to infection.
  • Conditions for Older Residents. Three months after Maria, only 60% of the power grid load in Puerto Rico has been restored. The lack of power is especially difficult for older residents and those with medical conditions. The situation at the island’s largest housing project for low-income seniors demonstrates those difficulties. Residents have fallen, accidentally ingested poison in the dark, and missed medical appointments because of closed roads.

HURRICANE IRMA

Local Perspective

  • Direct Housing in FL Keys. An update from the Monroe, FL County Emergency Management office states that 160 households in the county are staying in FEMA Direct Housing. This includes 139 households with travel trailers and 21 households in direct-lease properties. Monroe County includes the Florida Keys, which was hit particularly hard by Hurricane Irma.
  • Keys Recovery. Residents in the Keys continue to struggle with finding housing after Hurricane Maria. While some have received FEMA assistance, others receive nothing, even after four FEMA inspections. Even if a household does obtain FEMA funding, the costs for rebuilding manufactured housing–the main source of affordable housing in the area–to new, higher standards is expensive.

HURRICANE HARVEY

Local Perspective

FEMA Figures. The Governor’s Commission to Rebuild Texas’s latest update includes the following numbers regarding the recovery effort in Texas. All figures are as of December 6.

  • 1,037 requests for FEMA Public Assistance have been received from jurisdictions.
  • 894,220 FEMA Individual Assistance application has been received.
  • 13,000 households are participating in FEMA’s Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) program.
  • 587,098 FEMA inspections have been completed.

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