Federal Response


Massachusetts Senators Elizabeth Warren (D) and Edward Markey (D) sent a letter on June 21 to FEMA Administrator Brock Long admonishing him for not standing up the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP) for Hurricane Maria survivors. Point-by-point, the senators counter the reasons offered by FEMA for not working with HUD to set up DHAP and state their concerns with FEMA’s repeated dissemination of these “questionable or incorrect assertions.”

HUD has approved the Texas action plan for its $5 billion allocations from the Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program. Designed to support long-term recovery from Hurricane Harvey.  The largest share of the funds goes to the Single-Family Homeowner Assistance Program ($1.1 billion); buyouts and acquisitions for eligible homeowners to sell their damaged homes to local government ($275 million); and funding for the rehabilitation, reconstruction, and new construction of affordable multi-family rent properties ($250 million).

As the June 30 deadline ending the Transitional Shelter Assistance (TSA) program for survivors of Hurricanes Maria and Irma approaches, FEMA cites 1,827 households still in hotels and motels as of June 22.  Sixty-nine percent (1,268) are in the continental United States.  June 30 is also the deadline by which eligible survivors can secure FEMA Transportation Assistance to cover their travel costs if they return to Puerto Rico no later than July 1.  FEMA directs those remaining to go to www.fema.gov/disaster/4339 for a list of services around the country that may provide help.

FEMA’s Public Assistance program, which reimburses no less than 75 percent of eligible costs, approved over $69 million for the Florida Division of Emergency Management.  These federal funds will help with recovery expenses from Hurricane Irma– including staff salaries, housing, and equipment–for first responder facilities and Emergency Operation Centers.

Local Perspectives
A rally at an Orlando hotel demanded action from Florida Governor Rick Scott to address the needs of displaced hurricane survivors from Puerto Rico.  The protestors urged the Governor to use the state’s affordable housing fund to help the over 600 families still living in Florida hotels (according to FEMA’s Transitional Shelter Assistance (TSA) program) and facing possible homelessness with TSA’s June 30 deadline imminent.  An estimated 75,000 Puerto Ricans came to Florida after Hurricane Maria, further exacerbating the state’s affordable housing shortage.

The Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus wrote an op-ed. for the Boston Globe supporting passage of legislation in Congress that would force the implementation of the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP) within 15 days of enactment.   The op. ed. cites the success of DHAP in both Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, resulting in 95 percent of the Katrina participants securing stable housing after the program ended.

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid is representing Texas Housers in a complaint filed against the Texas General Land Office (GLO) relative to its CDBG-DR action plan for Hurricane Harvey recovery. The complaint cites the state’s failure to meet its obligations to low and moderate-income people per the federal register, thereby having a disparate impact on African American and Hispanic populations. Texas RioGrande Legal Aid also wrote a letter to HUD affirming that the GLO has not properly fulfilled its affirmatively further fair housing (AFFH) obligations, resulting in the perpetuation of patterns of segregation.

Working Groups on Disaster Housing Recovery

Puerto Rico
WG leaders are preparing next steps to follow up recent meetings in Puerto Rico with FEMA Office of Chief Counsel attorneys and with HUD Deputy Secretary Pam Patenaude, Congresswoman Jennifer González-Colon, and Puerto Rico’s Secretary of Housing Fernando Gil Enseñat.
Next meeting:  July 17 at 3:00 pm EDT

Members of this WG are collecting the first-person stories from a list of nonprofits working with survivors of the 2017 disasters for the Disaster Recovery Story Bank, which is also now available in Spanish.
Next meeting:  July 23 at 3:00 PM EDT

Data Transparency
The WG’s pro bono counsel is preparing to discuss with FEMA Office of Chief Counsel a set of 10 priorities relative to the quality of FEMA’s disaster assistance data and protocols.  The WG has drafted a letter for Ranking Member Bennie Thompson of the House Homeland Securities Committee to address similar concerns in a Government Accountability Office request.
Next meeting:   July 11 at 3:30 PM EDT

The WG drafted the letter to leaders of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and House Transportation and Infrastructure with concerns about the Disaster Recovery Reform Act and its delegation of disaster housing assistance programs to states.
Next meeting:  July 3, 12:30 PM EDT

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