Federal Response

On May 23, President Donald Trump increased disaster assistance funding to Puerto Rico. Federal funding for emergency power restoration was extended for 90 days, and Sheltering and Temporary Essential Power (STEP) was extended for 120 days. President Trump also offered additional disaster assistance to the US Virgin Islands, which will allow projects to protect the Territory from future storm damage to be entirely federally funded.

The Transitional Shelter Assistance (TSA) deadline for survivors of Hurricane Harvey in Texas has been extended through June 30 from its previous deadline of May 31.

House of Representatives Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) released a statement in response to a recently released study by the New England Journal of Medicine. The study estimates that the death toll of Hurricane Maria is at least 4,645, while the official death toll currently stands at 64. Mr. Hoyer urged President Trump to take stronger action in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

State Action Plans
NLIHC submitted comments on Puerto Rico’s CDBG-DR Action Plan and also signed on to a collective letter prepared by leaders in Puerto Rico with over 50 other organizations from the Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC). A sample of the individual letters are here:  Enterprise Community Partners and Espacios Abiertos.

Local Perspectives
Recommendations for Recovery. West Street Recovery, a grassroots mutual aid group that supports Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts, has released recommendations to improve the Partial Repair and Essential Power for Sheltering (PREPS) program. PREPS aims to provide temporary repairs to owner-occupied, single family residences, which allows homeowners to live in their homes while completing permanent repair. These recommendations include improving communication and protocol for repairs, standards for homes and repairs, and bettering the safety of homes.

Website Tracks Recovery Spending. A USVI Hurricane Recovery website managed by the Virgin Islands Public Finance Authority has been launched to track the spending of the nearly $2 billion awarded to the Territory.

Disaster Hits the Poor Hardest. Politico details the struggles low-income and minority residents in Houston face navigating the bureaucracy to receive disaster aid. Those who did secure assistance were awarded an average of $4300, which fails to cover even minimal repairs.

Homelessness in Houston. A January census conducted in Houston found that Hurricane Harvey led to an increase in homelessness in the city.  About 18% of unsheltered homeless individuals reported that they became homeless due to the disaster.

NeighborWorks America has updated its Navigating the Road to Housing Recovery guide for individuals and families.

Working Groups on Disaster Housing Recovery

Puerto Rico
WG leaders are scheduled to meet with FEMA’s Office of the Chief Counsel to propose two affidavits designed by leaders in Puerto Rico to address the challenge of survivors without legal title to their property qualifying for assistance.
Next meeting:  June 19 at 3:00 pm EDT

The WG is developing the idea of a guest blog and other social networking strategies to engage more survivors and their advocates in sharing their stories using the web-based, story-collection tool that the WG is promoting.
Next meeting:  June 26 at 3:00 PM EDT

Data Transparency
Individuals from the WG attended a small-group session of leaders with staff from the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) to share concerns about FEMA’s disaster response for those disproportionately impacted by the hurricanes in 2017.
Next meeting:   June 6 at 3:30 PM EDT

Next meeting:  June 5, 12:30 EDT

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