Disaster Housing Recovery Update, Wednesday, May 9, 2018

CDBG-DR Action Plans

  • The U.S. Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority (VIHFA) released the territory’s CDBG-DR Action Plan on May 3, 2018. The public comment period is open until May 17. VIHFA is holding three open forum sessions: May 9 in St. John, May 10 in St. Croix, and May 16 in St. Thomas. The Plan provides $72 million for housing (including $30 million for the housing authority) of the approximately $243-million in the first CDBG-DR total allocation.  With a heavier emphasis on infrastructure, economic development, and electrical grid projects, the second tranche is expected to designate more for unmet housing needs–although that is still to be determined.
  • Numerous groups, including NLIHC on behalf of the DHRC, submitted letters with comments and recommendations on Florida’s state action plan for $616 million in CDBG-DR funds. Many of these letters urge the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity to make adjustments that ensure the lowest income households receive their fair share of resources. Read letters from 8 organizations and coalitions here.
  • Local groups in Puerto Rico as well as members of the DHRC signed on to a letter to HUD Secretary Ben Carson and Puerto Rico’s Department of Housing Secretary Fernando Gil-Enseñat, urging them to extend the public comment period for the CDBG-DR action plan and  hold additional public hearings. Mr. Gil-Enseñat responded with a letter detailing the efforts his agency has taken to include public input thus far, which he states more than fulfill requirements. He asserted that additional time for public comment would only further delay recovery efforts.
  • Forum in PR. Puerto Rico’s Department of Housing held an orientation and discussion session on May 8 regarding the allocation of CDBG-DR funds.
  • Comments on TX State Action Plan. Texas Housers submitted comments to Texas GLO regarding the state action plan for $5 billion in CDBG-DR funds. The recommendations include improving transparency, adjusting FEMA-verified loss thresholds, increasing affordable housing, and providing assistance for all families.
  • HUD Approves TX Plan. HUD has officially approved the Texas General Land Office’s action plan for the allocation of $57.8 million. These funds were part of previous allocations made in 2015 – 2016.

Federal Response

Congress

  • The House Financial Services Committee is expected to hold a hearing on a bill authorizing the CDBG-DR on May 17. Witnesses invited to speak include Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis, Heather Lagrone from the Texas General Land Office, a representative from the Houston Mayor’s office, Carlos Martin from Urban Institute, Adam Gordon from Fair Share Housing Center (New Jersey), and Marion McFadden from Enterprise Community Partners.
  • Senator Patty Murray introduced the “Rural Disaster Recovery Act of 2018” ( 2767), which includes a provision to create a new program to help communities recover when FEMA does not grant Individual Assistance (IA).  The proposed program would help with shelter, food, and other recovery services.

FEMA

  • FEMA has released a strategic plan for 2018 – 2022. The plan has three main goals: build a culture of preparedness; prepare the country for disasters; and reduce the complexity of FEMA. The public can submit general questions, comments, or feedback.
  • FEMA granted an unconditional extension of the Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) program for survivors of Hurricane Maria through June 30. FEMA will also offer transportation back to Puerto Rico for interested families participating in TSA on the continental U.S.
  • Landlords interested in renting to hurricane survivors in the U.S. Virgin Islands should sign up with FEMA’s Multi-Family Lease and Repair Program before June 1.
  • FEMA and the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources will introduce an updated version of The Stronger Home Guide on May 16. This is the first update since 1996.

IRS

  • The IRS has provided guidance to help taxpayers better prepare for the upcoming hurricane season.

 

Local Perspectives

  • D-SNAP in FL. Thousands of Floridians with disabilities were previously denied access to Hurricane Irma Disaster-SNAP benefits because they were unable to attend an in-person interview. A new settlement will allow these individuals to apply for benefits by participating in phone interviews. FL Department of Children and Families has contacted many of these individuals to alert them of their new eligibility.
  • Flood Maps in PR. The Puerto Rico Planning Board is requesting public comment on new FEMA flood maps. The maps will help Puerto Rico better implement mitigation techniques. The public can provide feedback regarding these maps either by email or in writing.

Working Groups on Disaster Housing Recovery

Puerto Rico

  • Next meeting: May 15 at 3:00 PM EDT

Homelessness

  • Next meeting: May 29 at 3:00 PM EDT

Data Transparency

  • Next meeting:  June 6 at 3:30 PM EDT

Policy

  • Next meeting: May 9, 12:30 EDT

In anticipation of the May 17th hearing in the Housing Financial Services Committee on CDBG-DR, the WG is putting together a few sample questions to share with Committee staff and DHRC members that will be testifying.


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

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