Disaster Housing Recovery Update, Wednesday, February 21, 2018

General Updates

Funding for Relief, Not Debt. Five representatives and two senators sent a letter to the chairman of the Financial Oversight and Management Board (FOMB) for Puerto Rico, José B. Carrión III, reminding him that the recently passed disaster supplemental should be used solely for recovery and rebuilding purposes. Various reports suggested that the Puerto Rican government may use federal funding to service the island’s debt, which “completely disregards the continued suffering on the Island.” Senators Robert Menéndez (D-NJ) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) joined Representatives Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), Sean Duffy (R-WI), Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), and Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL) in this call for safeguarding the federal funding from being used to pay bondholders.

Call for Direct Lease Program. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) sent a letter to FEMA Administrator Brock Long on February 15. The Florida senators urged Mr. Long to approve the Direct Lease Program for Puerto Rican families who have relocated to the mainland following Hurricane Maria. An estimated 200,000 Puerto Rican families have evacuated to Florida, and the senators state that “the federal government must continue to play an active role in addressing the housing issues facing Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria.”


CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES

FEMA

October Wildfires

By the Numbers: (as of 2/21)

  • 4,414 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved*
  • $15,049,972 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
  • $9,200,471 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
  • $5,849,501 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*
  • $210,474,340 Total Public Assistance Grants (PA) obligated**
  • $208,830,256 Emergency Work (Categories A-B) obligated**
  • $203,708 Permanent Work (Categories C-G) 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

December Wildfires, Flooding, Mudflows, and Debris Flows

By the Numbers: (as of 2/21)

  • 582 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved*
  • $3,452,658 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
  • $3,021,383 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
  • $431,275 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*

*Assistance dollars approved but not necessarily disbursed. 

Additional Numbers. According to a FEMA update, the inspector team has completed 94% of requested housing inspections, and the Small Business Administration has approved 159 loans for homeowners or renters.


HURRICANE MARIA

FEMA

Puerto Rico

By the Numbers: (as of 2/21)

  • 429,222 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved*
  • $1,022,680,528 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
  • $557,257,491 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
  • $465,423,037 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*
  • $555,171,642 Total Public Assistance Grants (PA) obligated**
  • $537,171,642 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.

U.S. Virgin Islands

By the Numbers: (as of 2/21)

  • 10,376 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved*
  • $33,891,042 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
  • $22,964,727 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
  • $10,926,315 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*
  • $255,223,253 Total Public Assistance Grants (PA) obligated**
  • $246,795,312 Emergency Work (Categories A-B) obligated**
  • $1,014,393 Permanent Work (Categories C-G) 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.

USDA

Expansion of NAP. The USDA will provide an additional $1.27 billion to provide temporary food assistance to residents of Puerto Rico recovering from Hurricane Maria. The grant will be distributed through the Puerto Rico Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP), which is administered by the USDA, beginning March 1. The maximum allotment for a family of four will now be $649. The grant funding comes from the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Requirements, 2017, which passed in October.

Local Perspectives

Contract Suspended. On February 14, the Puerto Rico Housing Department suspended a $133 million contract to repair homes after a review board determined the contractor, New York-based Adjusters International, did not meet several requirements. The company has already been enrolling residents and conducting inspections, and the decision to suspend the contract could further delay the recovery process.

Housing in Philadelphia. Philadelphia Mayor Kenny has the ability to refer up to 50 families who were victims of a natural disaster for rental assistance from the Housing Authority. Through this special program, families would be placed at the top of the public housing waiting list, but the city government has only referred two families so far. Due to limited public housing resources, city officials said they felt it would be unfair to move Puerto Rican families ahead of others who have sometimes been waiting years. Advocates for the families expressed frustration that the program was not being utilized.

Pushing for Affordable Housing in Florida. Vamos4PR, a Florida group representing Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria, spoke at an Orange County Commission meeting, urging the board to pass resolutions that would protect funding for affordable housing in the Sadowski Federal Trust Fund. These funds have been swept into the general treasury fund every year for over a decade.


HURRICANE IRMA

FEMA

Florida

By the Numbers: (as of 2/21)

  • 771,436 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved*
  • $987,207,514 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
  • $682,364,881 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
  • $304,842,634 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*
  • $16,685,645 Total Public Assistance Grants (PA) obligated**
  • $4,271,560 Emergency Work (Categories A-B) obligated**
  • $44,787 Permanent Work (Categories C-G) 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

Funds for NFIP Policyholders. National Flood Insurance Program policyholders in Special Flood Hazard Areas may request extra funds, known as Increased Cost of Compliance, to upgrade a structure to comply with local building regulations.

Georgia

By the Numbers: (as of 2/21)

  • 9,344 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved*
  • $13,286,366 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
  • $9,806,619 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
  • $3,479,747 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*
  • $2,802,583 Total Public Assistance Grants (PA) obligated**
  • $2,032,699 Emergency Work (Categories A-B) obligated**
  • $216,688 Permanent Work (Categories C-G) 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.

Puerto Rico

By the Numbers: (as of 2/21)

  • 1,329 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved*
  • $3,290,810 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
  • $1,822,700 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
  • $1,468,111 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*
  • $3,891,330 Total Public Assistance Grants (PA) obligated, all 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.

U.S. Virgin Islands

By the Numbers: (as of 2/21)

  • 8,273 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved*
  • $32,663,386 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
  • $23,338,839 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
  • $9,324,546 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*
  • $4,865,861 Total Public Assistance Grants (PA) obligated**
  • $4,823,980 Emergency Work (Categories A-B) obligated**
  • $19,335 Permanent Work (Categories C-G) 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.

Local Perspectives

Increase in Free School Lunch. Following Hurricane Irma, the number of students in the Florida Keys taking free and reduced meals at school has increased from about a third to almost 60%.


HURRICANE HARVEY

FEMA

Texas

By the Numbers: (as of 2/21)

  • 370,454 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved*
  • $1,554,932,048 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
  • $1,178,548,770 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
  • $376,383,279 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*
  • $625,355,355 Total Public Assistance Grants (PA) obligated**
  • $561,658,430 Emergency Work (Categories A-B) obligated**
  • $758,800 Permanent Work (Categories C-G) 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.

Additional Numbers. According to a FEMA update, 8,750 households remain in FEMA-funded hotels, and 1,923 survivors are in temporary disaster housing.

Local Perspectives

Comments on State Action Plan. The commenting period for the Texas State Action Plan closed on February 20. Several groups submitted comments and shared their critiques:

Faulty Assistance Determinations. Only using FEMA data to determine unmet need of disaster survivors has historically reduced the number of low-income families receiving assistance. Low-income homeowners can be denied aid if inspectors decide the condition of the home was so poor that storm damage is hard to determine. State plans can adjust for this shortcoming by establishing an inspection and review process for those who have been denied FEMA assistance and analyzing legal claims against FEMA regarding the issue.

GLO Not Sharing Recovery Data. The Texas General Land Office (GLO) is refusing to share data on the progress made for short-term housing programs. This information should be shared to ensure the State is helping those most in need. Officials say an agreement with FEMA prohibits them from sharing data, which goes against the Texas Public Information Act.

Housing over Infrastructure. The Houston Rising Coalition for an Equitable Recovery, which consists of several Houston area community organizations, submitted comments about the State Action Plan concerning housing, jobs, and environmental health and justice. The coalition recommends the GLO prioritize housing over infrastructure for federal funding and implement greater community outreach and participation strategies. The group also suggests covering construction-related workers with worker’s compensation insurance and promote water and energy efficiency.

No Help for Jefferson County. Despite 74,000 flooded homes, Jefferson County, where Port Arthur is located, received no funding in the GLO’s State Action Plan. A quarter of Port Arthur’s residents live below the poverty line, and additional financial resources are necessary for the area to rebuild and recover, especially after additional flooding in January following heavy rainfall. Lone Star Legal Aid’s Equitable Development Initiative’s Environmental Justice team represents the Port Arthur Community Action Network (PA-CAN); both organizations have been advocating for low-income families in the area.

GLO Housing Updates. An update from the Governor’s Commission to Rebuild Texas reports that repairs have been made on 3,500 homes through the Partial Repair and Essential Power for Sheltering (PREPS) program, with another 10,300 homes in the process, and over 170 homeowners are currently participating in the Direct Assistance for Limited Home Repair (DALHR) program.

Awareness Campaign for Renter Safety. Texas Housers and other Houston area community groups are encouraging renters, who make up half of all Houston residents, to share photos of health and safety concerns in their apartments using the hashtags #OutOfOrder and #descompuesto. A new report from University of Texas Law professor Heather Way, Out of Order: Houston’s Dangerous Apartment Epidemic, demonstrates the poor conditions and limited options facing low-income renters. Way’s research uses data collected prior to Hurricane Harvey, and safety and health concerns have only increased. 


Read previous Disaster Housing Recovery updates at: http://nlihc.org/issues/disaster

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