Disaster Housing Recovery Update, Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Federal Response

Congress

Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) introduced a bill on May 17 requiring FEMA to stand up the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP) for survivors of Hurricanes Irma and Maria through February 2019.  Two days prior, FEMA had denied the Governor of Puerto Rico’s request to activate DHAP. The bill’s cosponsors include Senators Blumenthal (D-CT), Warren (D-MA), Markey (D-MA), Gillibrand (D-NY), and Harris (D-CA).

Congressman Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) held a press conference in New York City on May 21, where he expressed support for survivors of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and condemned the inadequate financial assistance provided to them by FEMA. Congressman Espaillat has introduced the Housing Victims of Major Disasters Act, which would allow FEMA to accept alternative forms of proof of residence besides official documents.

The House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing for stakeholders on May 17 regarding the CDBG-DR.  A recording of the proceedings can be viewed here.

Congressional Members Nydia M Velazquez (D-NY), Luis V Gutierrez (D-IL), Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ), and Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) sent a letter to HUD Secretary Ben Carson asking for a 30-day extension for public comment period, public hearings by HUD, and official Spanish translations of the Allocation Notice and all CDBG-DR funding information. They expressed concern for the constraints the two-week, public comment period imposed on input from community leaders.

HUD

HUD has announced on-site, employment opportunities in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and one position with a focus in the US Virgin Islands. Two specialist positions are within the Office of Community Planning and Development, Disaster Recovery; and two Financial Analyst positions are in the Special Issues Division in the Office of Block Grant Assistance.

FEMA

FEMA reports Housing Eligibility Determinations for all disaster areas affected by the 2017 hurricanes here.

FEMA has significantly increased funding for DR-4344, California Wildfires, from $189 million to $333 million. This increase allows the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services to re-open applications for grants that allow sub-applicants–which includes state agencies, local governments, special districts, and certain private non-profits–to receive funds to institute mitigation efforts.

FEMA denied the request of Puerto Rico’s representative in Congress to extend the restoration power crews that have been repairing the island’s power grid. About 16,000 homes in Puerto Rico still lack power, approximately eight months since Hurricane Maria first made landfall. FEMA did approve a request from the Governor of Puerto Rico to maintain hundreds of emergency generators.

 Local Perspectives

Evictions in Houston. Over six months after Hurricane Harvey ravaged Houston, Texas, and the surrounding area, January Advisors has reviewed eviction data from before and after the hurricane. In September 2017, the month Harvey hit, evictions were down 23% from September 2016. This may be in response to the Mayor of Houston’s pleas to private landlords to be flexible with tenants by suspending late fees for September. Shortly after, eviction rates spiked, and October 2017 saw 7% more evictions than October 2016. While eviction rates are on the rise, judgement in favor of the tenants in eviction cases since Harvey have similarly gone up from 2.46% to 6.19%.

TSA in Chicago. An article in the Chicago Reporter details how FEMA’s Transitional Shelter Assistance (TSA) program is not doing enough to help displaced Puerto Ricans after Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Roberto Maldonado, alderman of Chicago’s 26th Ward– home to the largest Puerto Rican neighborhood in the city–expressed concern for the lack of outreach to get additional hotels to join the TSA program. “They make things so complicated,” he said. “It’s not user-friendly at all.”


Working Groups on Disaster Housing Recovery

Puerto Rico

Working Group (WG) leaders in PR are preparing a list of 10 major concerns and required actions from which collective and individual comments can be submitted by the PR Action Plan deadline of May 25 COB.
Next meeting:  June 19 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

Now that Senator Nelson has introduced legislation (S.2880) to force FEMA to allow DHAP for 2017 disaster survivors, this WG is reaching out to other senators to cosponsor the bill and build support adding this language to the Senate Federal Aviation Authorization bill, which must be enacted by Congress by September 30.
Next meeting:  June 5, 12:30 EDT


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

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