Disaster Housing Recovery Update, Tuesday, April 10, 2018

General

To increase the responsiveness of federal disaster housing programs, the Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition has developed an online tool for capturing the individual stories of disaster survivors. These accounts of unmet need will be collected for use with policymakers and media to illustrate the unique housing challenges low income survivors face after a disaster and to build support for solutions. We are asking legal aid, advocacy, and other organizations serving disaster survivors from the hurricanes and wildfires of 2017 to help us collect these stories by filling out the online questionnaire for any client/individual with a compelling need for direct rental assistance.


Federal Response

Congress

A group of seven senators – Bill Nelson (D-FL), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Tom Carper (D-DE) – sent a letter to the chair and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA). The letter requests additional hearings on recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, particularly relating to power restoration. Many Puerto Ricans on the island still lack power.

HUD

HUD awarded $28 billion in CDBG-DR funds to support long-term disaster recovery—the second and last allocation of what Congress appropriated in the disaster supplemental appropriations. While Congress provided “up to” $16 billion to address unmet needs, HUD allocates only $12 billion for this purpose – the remaining $4 billion was instead diverted by HUD to address mitigation needs, bringing all mitigation dollars to a total of $16 billion. At this time, it is unclear whether this allocation provides sufficient resources to address the unmet needs in disaster-impacted areas. NLIHC will keep you updated as we learn more.

Of the $12 billion allocated for unmet needs, HUD provides $124 million for California; $157.7 million for Florida; $37.9 million for Georgia; $58.5 million for Missouri; $10.15 billion for Puerto Rico; $652 million for Texas; and $846.8 million for USVI.  Awards for unmet needs and mitigation can be reviewed here.

The Office of Public and Indian Housing (PIH) has compiled a spreadsheet with information on public housing authorities (PHAs) with preferences for households displaced by the 2017 disasters. The spreadsheet is a resource for families, PHAs, and HUD staff. PHAs that wish to supply additional or correct information should contact the disaster preference project team.

USDA

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that the 2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program, which was authorized by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, will make payments of up to $2.36 billion to farmers and ranchers recovering from the 2017 disasters. Sign-up for the program will begin no later than July 16.

FEMA

FEMA and Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló announced on April 7 that $53 million in Community Disaster Loans were approved for 12 municipalities. An additional 65 municipalities are in different stages of the application process.

Local Perspectives

  • New Texas State Action Plan. Texas General Land Office (GLO) has released today a Hurricane Harvey Action Plan for the allocation of $5.024 billion and is accepting public comments on the plan through April 26, 2018. Texas GLO previously released a State Action Plan for $57.8 million, which it submitted to HUD in early March.
  • Rebuild Texas Fund Update. The Rebuild Texas Fund has raised $93.1 million for economic recovery of communities most affected by Hurricane Harvey. So far, the Fund has invested $18 million in 64 projects. Details of the projects can be found in its recent updates.
  • Upcoming Deadline in Texas. The Texas GLO announced that the agency will soon complete activities for the Direct Assistance for Limited Home Repair (DALHR) program. The last date to have an inspection scheduled is April 20, 2018. All applicants notified that they are eligible for DALHR should contact GLO to schedule an inspection.
  • Seniors Hotline. The National Church Residences Hurricane Support for Seniors Hotline is no longer taking new referrals. Disaster case management teams have been deployed to the affected areas to serve seniors in need. The hotline helped over 700 seniors, and staff are ready to re-engage for the 2018 hurricane season if necessary.
  • Lessons from Louisiana. The Data Center, located in New Orleans, LA, released a new report, Rigging the Real Estate Market: Segregation, Inequality, and Disaster Risk. The study explores how various policies–including disaster recovery efforts–created and enforced racial segregation and inequity.
  • Race and Recovery. The Center for American Progress explores the inequities in disaster recovery past and present in this insightful piece.

Working Groups on Disaster Housing Recovery

Policy

  • On behalf of the DHRC, NLIHC sent a letter to House Financial Services Chair Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) and Representative Ann Wagner (R-MO) regarding a bill that would authorize the CDBG-DR program. The letter provides recommendations regarding data transparency, efficient use of limited resources, oversight, mitigation and resiliency, and other suggestions to ensure the needs of low income households are addressed. The policy group has been working with committee staff and expects a mark-up on the bill later this month.
  • Representative Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) is expected to introduce a bill this week that would require FEMA and HUD to stand up the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP) following a disaster. The bill also includes provisions requiring FEMA to accept alternative documents proving home ownership, which has been an issue in Texas and Puerto Rico. Congressman Espaillat’s legislation would ensure that all survivors of the recent hurricanes and wildfires – including those with the lowest incomes – have the resources they need to keep a stable roof over their heads while they rebuild their lives.
  • Next meeting: April 17, 12:30 PM EDT.

Puerto Rico

  • Attorneys in Puerto Rico and Texas along with national support attorneys met to understand PR’s estate laws to determine if affidavits like those recognized by FEMA as proof of ownership in Texas can be developed and applied in the Commonwealth.
  • The PR partners will put together a comprehensive statement and documents suggesting how FEMA can be responsive to jurisdictional law in PR in addressing the absence of title and other documents FEMA recognizes as proof of ownership.  This may include extending application-for-assistance deadlines for those who have started the long process of securing legal ownership.
  • Next meeting: April 17 at 3:00 PM EDT

Homelessness

  • The WG will pursue the policy goal of securing the Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program in statute and work to incorporate within it policies that address challenges unique to the broader challenge of homelessness. The focus of its next meeting is the current legislation by Rep. Wagner (R-MO) and a long-term strategy for moving a fuller bill that incorporates the DHRC’s priorities.
  • Next meeting: April 30 at 3:00 PM EDT

Data Transparency

  • The WG seeks to make public FEMA’s protocols, questions, and assessments for processing applications for federal assistance. It has also compared the numerous FOIA requests to FEMA for data at a more granular level.   The WG will review the applicant data on OpenFEMA that Fair Share Housing and partners secured from FEMA to determine next steps.
  • Next meeting: TBA

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

 

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