Disaster Aid Passed. Congress passed a disaster relief bill on February 9. While the bill provides $28 billion in Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds and other important financial resources, it does not include important housing resources and tools–such as the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP)–or safeguards to ensure federal resources are allocated equitably. The full DHRC/NLIHC press release can be found here. Governors Scott (FL), Abbott (TX), Rosselló (PR), and Mapp (USVI) all issued press releases thanking Congress for the additional federal funding.
TSA Causing Uncertainty. Puerto Ricans in hotels face uncertainty as an end to assistance approaches for about 200 families. In total, 4,000 Puerto Rican families are utilizing FEMA’s Transitional Shelter Assistance (TSA) program, but some are losing their assistance before the general March 20 deadline. FEMA is ending assistance for families whose homes in Puerto Rico have been deemed habitable, although those decisions are often appealed. Puerto Rican families on the mainland struggle to find jobs and long-term housing but know that the situation back on the island will not be much better. Puerto Rico evacuees and local communities are preparing for the end of assistance in Philadelphia, PA, Holyoke, MA, and other cities across the country.
MA Housing Resources for Puerto Rico Evacuees. MassLegal Services has helpful documents for advocates and Puerto Rican families that explain their rights and other resources.
Debris Removal in the Florida Keys. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) will assist Monroe County with clean-up and removal of marine debris caused by Hurricane Irma. DEP will provide $6 million and oversight of the cleanup, and FDEM will help Monroe County apply for FEMA reimbursements, which will then go back to the state.
FEMA Basics Webinar. FEMA, the State of Florida, and other partners are hosting a webinar, “FEMA Program Basics Training.” The training is on February 20 from 9 am to 12 pm EST and will include information on FEMA appeals, Small Business Administration, how to request FEMA applicant information, and more.
The Texas Comptroller released a special edition of Fiscal Notes that examines the financial impact of Hurricane Harvey. The storm destroyed nearly 200,000 homes, caused $670 million in damage to public infrastructure, and contributed to $200 million in crop and livestock losses. The report demonstrates the positive effects of recovery efforts and increased construction activity on the state’s economy and includes mitigation proposals such as reservoirs, city/regional planning, and updated flood plain maps.
The area around Beaumont, Port Arthur, and Orange, Texas–also known as the Golden Triangle–continues to struggle with recovery, particularly low-income residents. A quarter of these residents were displaced, and nearly half requested assistance when applying for FEMA. Community leaders and groups are working hard to advocate for the community and ensure that those with the lowest incomes and highest need do not slip through the cracks.
Texas Action Plan Analysis. Texas Housers’ blog has been analyzing the Texas state action plan for spending almost $60 million in federal funding. They discuss the plan’s specific housing proposals, the importance of looking to past disasters for guidance, the prioritization of certain communities, and more. The last day for comments on the State Action Plan is tomorrow. Below are some recent highlights from the blog.
Infrastructure Projects. Texas Housers released a report analyzing the Governor’s Commission to Rebuild Texas’ October Request for Federal Assistance Infrastructure Projects. Its analysis finds that this list of 281 infrastructure projects totaling $61 billion in funding is a “seemingly random list of projects that are nor prioritized” and underrepresents Texas communities with known disaster needs. Texas Housers found major inconsistencies in how projects were selected and ask the General Land Office (GLO), responsible for administering these grants, not to take the Governor’s Commission request at face value.
Buyouts. The GLO proposes using $35 million for buyouts in Harris County (where Houston is located), but buyouts need careful planning and community engagement to avoid high prices or mostly vacant neighborhoods. Buyout programs also need to be transparent, accessible, and holistic to ensure low-income households receive sufficient funding to find a new home. Additionally, the immediate needs of families should supersede mass buyouts.
Fair Housing. Despite major fair housing lawsuits against the State of Texas and local city governments, the GLO makes no concrete plans in its plan for affirmatively furthering fair housing. In its comments, Texas Housers makes several recommendations to GLO on how to better comply with fair housing laws and promote opportunity and equity: collect and share data that can help identify disparities; incorporate provisions from previous conciliation agreements; provide mandatory training to cities and counties; ensure the needs of low-income people are met first; and more.
Read previous Disaster Housing Recovery updates at: http://nlihc.org/issues/disaster