- Delayed Loans for PR. FEMA and the U.S. Treasury Department are temporarily withholding a billion-dollar emergency loan to help Puerto Rico with disaster recovery efforts. The loan was approved by Congress several months ago, but officials from FEMA and Treasury issued a letter on January 8 stating that the island’s central cash balance did not display a need for the loan. The administration will work with Puerto Rico officials and the federal control board currently overseeing Puerto Rico’s finances to determine when the funds will be released.
- Senators’ Request. A group of eight senators sent a letter on January 17 to Senate leadership urging them to “address the deficiencies” in the House-passed disaster supplemental bill. The letter urges leadership to ensure the Senate supplemental includes adequate Medicaid funding for Puerto Rico, provide tax relief for survivors in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and address delays of loan disbursements to Puerto Rico as well as other issues with Community Disaster Loans.
- Funding Opportunities Webinar. A webinar on January 23 will help guide organizations through the process of obtaining government and private funds for disaster recovery-related work. Registration fees apply.
- Direct Housing. A FEMA update reports that 184 applicants, 360 individuals, are living in direct housing, such as manufactured housing or directly leased units.
- Voluntary Repair Program. The Voluntary Agencies Leading and Organizing Repair (VALOR) program launched a new initiative in Puerto Rico to provide temporary, essential repairs that will allow survivors to move back to their homes. The supplies are funded through FEMA, and the repairs are not intended to return housing to pre-disaster conditions.
- Florida Webinars. The Florida Housing Coalition holds Hurricane Update Webinars every Friday at 1:30 pm. Webinars are free and open to member organizations as well as others wanting to stay updated on Hurricane Irma recovery efforts.
- FEMA Figures. The Governor’s Commission to Rebuild Texas’ latest update includes the following numbers regarding the recovery effort in Texas. All figures are as of January 17.
- More than 500 homes have received free repairs through the General Land Office’s PREPS program with another 3,294 in the process.
- 1,466 families have been housed through the Direct Housing Program.
- 10,212 households are participating in FEMA’s Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) program.
- 598,260 FEMA inspections have been completed.
- GLO Recovery Plan. The General Land Office is accepting comments on the State of Texas Plan for Harvey Disaster Recovery through February 1, 2018. Comments can be mailed, faxed, emailed, or submitted through their online form. The current plan states that the limited amount of funds prohibit the GLO from setting funds aside from homeless and special needs populations but will undergo Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) review. Funds will focus on Harris County, which was determined the most impacted by Hurricane Harvey, and provide for Residential Buyout, Partial Repair and Essential Power for Sheltering, and Affordable Rental Recovery programs.
- Declaration Extended. Texas Governor Greg Abbott extended the State Disaster Declaration for all 60 counties affected by Hurricane Harvey. The State Disaster Declarations must be renewed every 30 days to ensure these counties remain eligible for assistance.
- State Urban Affairs Hearing. Land Commissioner George P. Bush, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, and numerous disaster survivors gave testimony in front of the Texas House Urban Affairs Committee hearing on January 18. While about 900,000 people have applied for housing assistance through the General Land Office, hundreds of thousands of people are still waiting to be approved or have been denied. Land Commissioner Bush and Mayor Turner placed heavy blame on the federal government, specifically Congress, for the slow pace of recovery.
- Inspection Disparities. Texas Housers released a new report that shows owner-occupied housing is being inspected at higher rates than renter-occupied units, despite similar FEMA registration rates. This disparity could be a result of intentional decisions at FEMA or complications with the application process that are unique to or more prevalent in renter households. The report also shows that, overall, less than half of federal assistance applications have been approved so far.
- Grant for LSLA. Lone Star Legal Aid received a $250,000 grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation to help the organization expand its Disaster Relief Unit. The grant will allow for additional staff and resources.