Disaster Housing Recovery Update, Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Federal Response

Congress

  • The House passed the FAA Reauthorization Act (R. 4) on April 27 with a vote of 393 – 13. As previously noted, this bill includes the Disaster Recovery Reform Act, which contains several important provisions: authorizes states to administer housing assistance using federal funding; allows greater flexibility for housing following a disaster; allows President to waive duplication of benefit restrictions; emphasizes mitigation; and increases the assistance available to people with disabilities.

FEMA

  • Through FEMA’s Public Assistance program, Puerto Rican agencies and municipalities have received over $2 billion, including a recent grant of $3.1 million to the Puerto Rico Public Housing Administration for congregating sheltering.
  • In response to recent reports revealing flaws in FEMA’s approach to providing shelter and housing following the 2017 hurricanes, the agency posted a fact sheet with “Myths vs. Facts” about the Transitional Sheltering Assistance Program (TSA). This included: “Myth: HUD’s Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP) is necessary to address the housing needs of Puerto Rico survivors.”

Economic Development Administration

  • The EDA has published the FY2018 Disaster Supplemental Notice of Funding Opportunity, announcing $587 million in grant money for communities impacted by the 2017 disasters. Nonprofits and local governments are invited to submit grant applications based on development strategies that foster economic growth and resilience.  These will be accepted on a rolling basis.

Local Perspectives

  • Protests in PR. On May 1, International Workers’ Day, thousands of Puerto Ricans from across the island joined a general strike in opposition to school closings, tuition increases, and potential cuts to benefits. Many demonstrators expressed deep concerns that upcoming austerity measures would only prompt more Puerto Ricans to leave the island–making recovery more difficult. The largest demonstration took place in San Juan and ended with confrontations between police and a group of protestors.
  • Executive Order on Price Gouging in CA. California Governor Jerry Brown issued an executive order that prohibits price gouging in Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Solano, and Sonoma Counties until December 4, 2108.
  • FL Data. Florida Housing has created a report, “Impacts to Housing in Florida from the 2017 Hurricanes,” which compiles data from a number of sources.
  • Recovery Concerns in TX. Texas Housers, Texas Appleseed, and Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid held a press conference on April 27 to share their concerns about the most recent state action plan from the Texas General Land Office (GLO). The organizations asserted that the plan does not promote an equitable or inclusive recovery. The press conference can be found here.
  • New Grant in TX. The Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation and Enterprise Community Partners are joining together to create the Housing and Economic Assistance to Rebuild Texas program, which provides grants of up to $50,000 to local nonprofits as well as technical assistance. Grants are meant to help organizations provide home repairs and other housing assistance to low income households impacted by Hurricane Harvey.
  • Frontline on PR. With help from NPR, Frontline released a new episode on May 1 that investigates Puerto Rico’s current economic and humanitarian crises. In addition to the film, Frontline and NPR had additional stories on the response compared to other hurricanes and the economic situation prior to the hurricanes.
  • Informal Housing in PR. In an interview with Marketplace, Governor Ricardo Rosselló spoke about his hopes of “eradicating that informal housing component, start pushing folks into safe, formal [home] ownership.”

Working Groups on Disaster Housing Recovery

Puerto Rico

  • Three affidavits accepted inconsistently by FEMA personnel in Puerto Rico when formal property titles are absent will be reviewed and refined by the WG, translated into English, and submitted to FEMA in Washington for approval and broader, a uniform application on the island.
  • Next meeting: May 15 at 3:00 PM EDT

Homelessness

  • The WG will further develop the Disaster Housing Recovery Stories tool for distribution among its respective organizational networks at upcoming conferences and other platforms.  The goal is to compile a robust set of challenges in recent disaster assistance programs to educate congressional members about the need for placing CDBG-DR in the statute.
  • Next meeting: May 29 at 3:00 PM EDT

Data Transparency

  • The WG is preparing its pro bono counsel with specific requests of the FEMA Office of Chief Counsel as well as following up a meeting with FEMA Policy staff to continue the discussion about its wish list for data to be provided on Open FEMA.
  • Next meeting:  June 6 at 3:30 EDT

Policy

  • The WG formulated the letter to Senator Bill Nelson mentioned above.
  • Next meeting: May 8, 12:30 EDT

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

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