Take Action: Sign Letters to Support an Equitable Housing Recovery after Devastating Hurricanes

Help ensure that low income people and neighborhoods are treated fairly after Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

A broad coalition of national, state, and local organizations is calling on Congress, FEMA, and HUD to ensure that the federal response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria is complete and equitable for everyone, especially families and individuals with the lowest incomes who are often the hardest hit by disasters and have the fewest resources to recover afterwards.

Please sign your organization onto the national letters to Congress, FEMA, and HUD. The deadline to sign on is Wednesday, September 27.

Background

After past disasters, low income people and neighborhoods are often left out of the housing recovery process. As a result, many of the most vulnerable people – including low income seniors, people with disabilities, and families with children – and neighborhoods are never able to recover fully, making them even more vulnerable when the next disaster strikes.

For that reason, a broad coalition of organizations – including many working directly with impacted communities in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands and with first-hand experience recovering after prior disasters – have drafted letters to Congress, FEMA, and HUD outlining specific policy recommendations that will help ensure the recovery process is fair and just.

How You Can Take Action

Congress and the Trump administration need to hear from you. The deadline to sign on is Wednesday, September 27.

Sign your organization onto all three national letters to Congress, FEMA, and HUD.

To sign onto letters separately, please contact Sarah Jemison at the National Low Income Housing Coalition at sjemison@nlihc.org.

 

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Tuesday, September 19, 2017

HURRICANE MARIA

FEMA

Puerto Rico

  • Emergency Declaration Declared. President Trump declared on September 18, that an emergency exists for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico due to conditions resulting from Hurricane Maria. FEMA has established the Puerto Rico Hurricane Maria Emergency Disaster webpage (EM-3391).

Virgin Islands

  • Emergency Declaration Declared. President Trump declared on September 18, that an emergency exists for the U.S. Virgin Islands due to conditions resulting from Hurricane Maria. FEMA has established the U.S. Virgin Islands Hurricane Maria Emergency Disaster webpage (EM-3390).

Local Perspective

  • The Virgin Islands has paused Irma-related recovery efforts to prepare for another possible hit from Hurricane Maria.

HURRICANE IRMA

FEMA

Florida

  • By the Numbers: (As of Tuesday morning)
    • 142,265 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved*
    • $106,670,132 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
    • $38,227,132 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
    • $68,443,000 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*

*Assistance dollars approved but not necessarily disbursed.

  • Amendments to Disaster Declaration.
    • A sixth and seventh amendment to the initial disaster declaration enables renters, homeowners, and business owners in 11 more counties to apply for FEMA Individual Assistance (IA), bringing the total to 48 counties.
    • Amendment Number 8 installs Willie Nunn as the Federal Coordinating Officer, replacing Justó Hernández.
  • Disaster Recovery Centers.  A DRC opened in St. Augustine. FEMA, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), volunteer groups, and other agencies are at the centers to answer questions about disaster assistance and low-interest disaster loans for homeowners, renters, and businesses. They can also help survivors apply for federal disaster assistance. Disaster Survivor Assistance (DSA) crews are canvassing many affected areas and are able to register people for FEMA assistance if needed. When residents require further assistance, the teams may refer them to a disaster recovery center. It is not necessary to visit a center to register for and receive federal disaster assistance. If possible, survivors should register with FEMA before visiting a recovery center.
  • FEMA Outreach Teams. FEMA outreach teams are canvasing the designated counties to help residents register for disaster assistance, provide application updates, and make referrals to additional community resources. FEMA has contracted housing inspectors to assess damage to homes for those who have already registered with FEMA.
  • Operation Blue Roof. Carried out by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Operation Blue Roof, provides eligible homeowners with free, temporary blue plastic sheeting to help reduce further property damage until permanent roof repairs can be made. However, roofs with 50% or more structural damage are not eligible.
    • This activity is currently taking place in Broward, Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Henry, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Polk, and Sarasota counties.
    • There are currently seven locations where households can apply for Operation Blue Roof and complete the Right of Entry (ROE) form.
    • FAQs are answered.

Virgin Islands

  • Amendment to Disaster Declaration. Amendment Number 3 adds permanent work under the Public Assistance (PA) program Categories C-G for the three islands declared disaster areas, St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas. Those islands were previously approved for PA under Categories A and B (debris removal and emergency protective measures), including direct federal assistance.

Puerto Rico

  • Amendment to Disaster Declaration. Amendment Number 2 makes 15 more municipalities eligible for Public Assistance (PA), bringing the total to 19.

Georgia

  • Major Disaster Declared. On September 15, the President raised the situation in Georgia from Emergency to a formal Disaster Declaration. FEMA’s has established a Georgia Hurricane Irma disaster page (DR-4338).
    • The Initial Disaster Declaration makes households in Camden, Chatham, and Glynn counties eligible for Individual Assistance (IA), and all 159 counties eligible for debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, under the Public Assistance (PA) program. All areas of the state are eligible for the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.
    • Amendment Number 1 adds households in Liberty and McIntosh counties eligible for Individual Assistance.

Local Perspectives

  • Public Housing in VI. Residents of Estate Tutu Apartments, a public housing development on St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, are being relocated as the building has suffered severe damage. Of the 285 families living there, 160 are in shelters, while others are still living in the damaged building. While finding local housing is preferred, many residents may have to move.
  • Affordable housing in the Keys. Hurricane Irma destroyed many of the trailers and mobile homes that constituted the limited amount of affordable housing in the Florida Keys. Low-income residents now worry that developers will use this as an opportunity to buy the trailer park’s land for luxury apartments, forcing them to leave the islands. Governor Rick Scott says he wants the Florida Keys open for business by October 1.
  • Housing in Immokalee. Collier County Housing Authority is opening temporary housing in Immokalee for up to 176 people displaced by Hurricane Irma.
  • Former President Bill Clinton dropped in on the shelter at the Miami-Dade County.

HURRICANE HARVEY

FEMA

  • By the Numbers: (As of Tuesday morning)
    • 237,618 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved*
    • $434,725,370 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
    • $292,063,922 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
    • $142,661,448 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*
    • Public Assistance (PA) no longer indicated

*Assistance dollars approved but not necessarily disbursed.

  • More than $1 Billion Approved. FEMA reports that as of September 17, $1.09 billion in federal funds have been provided directly to residents to aid in personal recovery. This includes:
    • $333 million in FEMA grants for housing assistance, including emergency home repairs, replacement, and rental assistance.
    • $146 million in FEMA grants to replace essential personal property and help with medical, dental, legal, and other disaster-related expenses.
    • $347 million paid to National Flood Insurance Program policy holders in advance payments.
    • $265 million in Small Business Administration low-interest disaster loans for homeowners, renters, and businesses.

In addition, FEMA’s Public Assistance Program approved $181 million for local and state agencies to reimburse them for the cost of debris removal and emergency response. FEMA also made $516 million in mission assignments to more than two dozen federal agencies.

  • Amendments to Disaster Declaration. An eighth amendment authorizes federal funds for all categories of Public Assistance (PA) at a 90% federal cost-share, except for assistance previously approved at 100%. Amendment Number 4 on September 2 limited the 90% federal cost-share to debris removal and direct federal assistance.
  • Disaster Recovery Centers. Eight more DRCs have opened: Port Aranas and League City, Port Arthur, Dickinson, Bay City, Brookshire, Houston (at the Church Without Walls), and Orange.
  • FEMA Fact Sheets.
    • HUD-Assisted Households. People who were displaced from their HUD-assisted homes in one of the 39 designated disaster counties should register with FEMA, according to a FEMA Fact Sheet. This advice applies to households who were living in public housing, private homes with vouchers, or private homes assisted with project-based rental assistance. Displaced households may be eligible for temporary assistance to pay for a place to live until they return to HUD-assisted homes. They may also be eligible for grants to replace essential contents such as clothing and household items, as well as medical, dental, and burial expenses.
    • Other Needs Assistance. Other Needs Assistance (ONA) grants are funded on a cost-share basis by FEMA and the State of Texas to assist Hurricane Harvey survivors. These grants can be used to repair or replace damaged personal property or to pay for disaster‐related necessary expenses and other serious needs. The state provides these grants to repair or pay for:
      • Disaster‐related medical or dental costs.
      • Disaster‐related funeral and burial costs.
      • Clothing, household items, tools required for work, and necessary educational materials.
      • Fuels for primary heat source.
      • Disaster‐specified clean‐up items.
      • A vehicle damaged by the disaster.
      • Moving and storage expenses related to the disaster to avoid additional disaster damage while disaster‐related repairs are being made to the home.
      • Other necessary expenses or serious needs as determined by the State and FEMA.
    • Critical Needs Assistance. FEMA has authorized Critical Needs Assistance (CNA) for households with immediate or serious needs due to being displaced from their primary dwelling. CAN is available in all 39 counties designated as disaster areas. Critical needs are life-saving and life-sustaining items including, but not limited to: water, food, first aid, prescriptions, infant formula, diapers, consumable medical supplies, durable medical equipment, personal hygiene items and fuel for transportation. To be eligible for CNA a survivor must complete a registration with FEMA.
    • Clean and Removal Assistance. FEMA has authorized Clean and Removal Assistance (CRA) for homeowners with disaster-related real property damage who do not qualify for Home Repair Assistance because the damage did not render the home uninhabitable. This assistance is intended to prevent additional loss and potential health and safety concerns and reduce contamination from floodwater. CRA is awarded as a one-time payment per household. This amount represents the average cost of cleaning, sanitizing, and removing carpet in a flooded dwelling in the designated area.
    • Register with FEMA Even if You Have Insurance. FEMA recommends registering with FEMA even if a household is covered by insurance or have registered with other agencies. There are situations in which insured households might still be eligible for FEMA assistance.

Local Perspectives

  • Rent Increases. Low income residents of Houston are unable to leave damaged units as rental prices increase in Houston. While some report landlords abusing their power to take advantage of the price increase, the majority of landlords are doing their best to accommodate tenants.
  • ID for D-SNAP. The Department of Health and Human Services has announced that they will take a client statement as a form of ID when applying for D-SNAP. Since many Texans have lost important documents, this will help more families buy food.
  • Temporary housing. Officials are struggling to house the tens of thousands of Texans who are unable to return to their homes. Shelters and hotels remain full, and while FEMA and other volunteers are working to quickly repair homes, this will be a slow process and a huge challenge. FEMA may begin to bring in trailers as a temporary option.

[Read more…]

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Wednesday/Thursday, September 13 and 14, 2017

CDBG-DR

Congress appropriated $7.4 billion for CDBG Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) money for 2017 designated disaster areas. Implementation of appropriated CDBG-DR will be through Federal Register notices that are treated as regulations. HUD is in the process of drafting a Federal Register notice.

Advocates in states impacted by the hurricanes will want to be familiar with CDBG-DR so that they can effectively influence state and local CDBG-DR required Action Plans. HUD’s CDBG-DR webpage has materials developed before for previous disaster situations which are relevant today. Although written for state and local officials responsible for the use of CDBG-DR funds, everyone active in their communities would benefit from a familiarity with these materials.

  • The CDBG-DR Toolkit has a section for launching a CDBG-DR program and a section for implementation. The latter touches on topics pertaining to multifamily rental housing, small rental rehabilitation, homeowner repairs, and other forms of recovery assistance.
  • The Disaster Recovery Homelessness Toolkit has three guides:
    • The Local Planning Guide is designed to help ensure a community’s disaster plan addresses the needs of homeless and other vulnerable populations.
    • The Response Guide has suggestions for strengthening a community’s entire disaster response effort by addressing the needs of its most vulnerable community members.
    • The Recovery Guide addresses the fact that returning a homeless or precariously housed household to the same condition they had before the disaster is a missed opportunity for both the household and the community.
  • The 2016 CDBG-DR Webinar Series has eight webinars including one that provides an overview of CDBG-DR and one on public participation CDBG-DR Action Plans.
  • The 2017 CDBG-DR Problem Solving Clinics  include one about the basics and other important topics such as the Uniform Relocation Act, environmental review, and subrecipients.

HURRICANE IRMA

FEMA

Florida

  • Amendments 3, 4, and 5 to the initial disaster declaration enables renters, homeowners, and business owners in 21 more counties to apply for FEMA Individual Assistance (IA), bringing the total to 37 counties.
  • The Florida Housing Finance Corporation (Florida Housing, the Housing Finance Agency) is suggesting that residents displaced by Hurricane Irma search for available rental housing using www.FloridaHousingSearch.org. Property owners and managers, are urged to help by adding and/or updating their listing of available rental units by clicking here to log into their account with SocialServe, or call them toll-free at 1-(877) 428-8844 for assistance. Florida Housing reminds owners and managers that properties in Florida Housing’s portfolio are required to list with the Locator.

Puerto Rico

More municipios were added to the list of designated areas eligible for disaster assistance. People in Canovanas and Loiza are now eligible to apply for Individual Assistance (IA). Ten additional municipios may apply for Public Assistance (PA) and Hazard Mitigation Grants (HMG).

HUD

HUD issued a Situation Report on September 13. Highlights include:

  • The total number of HUD-assisted Multifamily properties, number of units in those properties, and the number of HUD-assisted units are listed for Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Puerto Rico South Carolina, Tennessee, and the Virgin Islands. No damage assessments are presented.
  • Scattered site vacation villas are being identified in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico for potential use as housing for local government employees. Also, 89 units on the east coast of Puerto Rico are undergoing Housing Quality Standards (HQS) inspections.
  • Some PHAs in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina have sent damage reports, most seem to be relatively minor water damage or fallen tree damage to relatively few units. Notably, Miami-Dade and Hialeah are still assessing damage.
  • Information from the Seminole Nation of Florida is in the report. Six shelters are open (but two have leaks) housing about 85 people. Public safety buildings at Hollywood, Big Cypress, and Brighton have roof damage beyond repair. The Poarch Band of Creek Indians in Alabama reports no damage.
  • More than 100 public housing residents from the Tutu Apartments in the Virgin Islands are living in severely damaged homes with nowhere to go.
  • The Virgin Islands Housing Authority (VIHA) has capacity to issue vouchers; however, suitable units are not likely to be available on the island. Families will need to port out to St. Croix, Puerto Rico, or PHAs on the mainland. PIH estimates VIHA has budget authority for approximately 100 vouchers for immediate issuance. PIH staff are not yet aware of what emergency transportation resources be available through FEMA. Cruise ships are evacuating residents of the Virgin Islands to Puerto Rico and Miami, but PIH has not seen this service offered to public housing residents. Coordination of transportation options is needed.
  • Only 50% of VIHA staff in St. Thomas have been accounted for, and they need basic necessities.

LOCAL PERSPECTIVES

  • Federal prisons. Reports indicate that federal prisons in Texas and Florida may not have been evacuated, unlike state prisons.
  • Loss of power. Many Floridians remain without any electricity, internet, or cell phone service. Authorities are working hard to restore power, especially because the high heat and humidity create health concerns. Power outages have also been reported in Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama.
  • Mobile homes. Manufactured homes were some of the most affected by the storm, but as many as 50% of these homes may lack insurance.
  • Back to back floods. Certain Georgia residents have been hit twice with flooding. Many were still recovering from damages related to last year’s Hurricane Matthew when Irma brought on additional flooding.

HURRICANE HARVEY

FEMA

  • By the Numbers: (As of Thursday afternoon)
  • 223,980 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved*
  • $346,620,696 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
  • $218,164,003 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
  • $128,456,693 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*
  • Public Assistance (PA) no longer indicated

*Assistance dollars approved but not necessarily disbursed.

  • Disaster Recovery Center. A DRC opened in Webster.
  • NFIP “Substantial Damage.” A FEMA fact sheet explains “substantial damage” in the context of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The decision about a structure being “substantially damaged” is made at a local government level, generally by a building official or floodplain manager.

Substantial damage applies to a structure in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) – or 1%-annual-chance floodplain – for which the total cost of repairs is 50% or more of the structure’s market value before the disaster occurred, regardless of the cause of damage. This percentage could vary among jurisdictions, but must not be below NFIP standards.

If a building in a floodplain is determined by the local official to be substantially damaged, it must be brought into compliance with local floodplain management regulations. Owners may decide to elevate their structures, or change them in some other way to comply with local floodplain regulations and avoid future losses, or relocate or demolish the structure.

HUD

  • HUD issued a second Situation Report on September 13. Highlights include:
    • FEMA is involved with repopulating public housing residents in the Dallas Shelter.
    • Survivors from the Beaumont area are returning via buses provided by FEMA.
    • While 11 Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) are open, the Governor, state Emergency Management director, and the FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer are pressing to speed up opening more DRCs. HUD anticipates many more DRCs will open in the next week.
    • By October 1, HUD will have more than 40 staff on the ground.
    • HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) indicates that data for FEMA Individual Assistance (IA) applicants and awards, as well as Preliminary Disaster Assessments (PDAs) will be provided as it becomes available.
    • HUD is beginning to draft a Federal Register notice that will govern the use of CDBG-DR funds.
    • HUD reports that FEMA “may have asked” the Houston Housing Authority (HHA) to serve up to 700 new, non-HUD assisted persons currently in shelters. However, prior to the hurricane HHA’s voucher program had a substantial shortfall and was financially oversubscribed. HUD is requesting that FEMA first make such requests to HUD’s Office of Public and Indian Housing (PIH).

TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT (TDHCA)

TDHCA requested and was granted Governing Board approval to re-program available funds, including HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME) funds, to provide disaster-related assistance. The general set-aside for the outstanding 2017-1 Multifamily Direct Loan NOFA is being reduced, and $9,086,316 in general set-aside funds for which no applications have been submitted is transferred to the current HOME Disaster Reservation Fund, also known as the Disaster Relief Set-Aside. There is approximately $2,000,000 currently available; therefore approximately $11 million in HOME funding will shortly be available for this purpose.

LOCAL PERSPECTIVES

  • Water contamination.  Testing of Houston floodwaters, organized by the New York Times, found dangerously high levels of bacteria and toxins caused by sewage contamination. Contamination levels were higher inside homes, so extreme caution around floodwater or the resulting sediment is necessary to avoid infection.
  • Barges providing housing. The Mayor of Port Arthur has announced that two floating barges with living quarters and laundry facilities will help house those left homeless after Harvey. The barges will also provide three meals per day.
  • Mortgage delinquencies. An estimated 300,000 borrowers will become delinquent on their loans in FEMA-designated disaster areas.
  • Rural communities. Many small town ranchers and farms have lost both their homes and their livelihoods to flooding that has killed livestock and destroyed crops.
  • Coastal barrier. Houston Mayor Turner is advocating for a physical coastal barrier that would protect the region from storm surges.
  • Recruiting from shelters. A group has recruited members of Nashville’s homeless community to work on clean-up efforts. They are being asked to work 12 hours a day, six days a week. Advocates are concerned about security and safety issues.

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Tuesday, September 12, 2017

CONGRESS

  • Supporting recovery. Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stated: “Congress passed a critical down payment on disaster relief last week. If more assistance is required due to Irma, we are ready to do what is needed.” Minority Leader Chuck Schumer also stated willingness to speedily pass new relief funding if necessary.

HURRICANE IRMA

DISASTER DECLARATIONS

Florida

Two amendments were made on September 11 to the initial disaster declaration, enabling people in eight more counties, for a total of 17, eligible to apply for Individual Assistance (IA).

The Seminole Tribe declaration of emergency now has a FEMA Hurricane Irma webpage (EM-3388). The Hollywood Indian Reservation is eligible to apply for Public Assistance (PA). 

Alabama

President Trump made an emergency declaration for all 67 Alabama counties and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians on September 11. This authorizes FEMA to provide emergency protective measures (Category B), including direct federal assistance under the Public Assistance (PA) program with the federal government covering 75% of the cost. FEMA has an Alabama Hurricane Irma webpage (EM-3389).  Warren Riley was named the Federal Coordinating Officer. 

Georgia

Two amendments were made to the initial emergency declaration, one on September 10 and another on September 11, enabling an additional 129 counties eligible to apply for Public Assistance (PA). 

USDA

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) approved a temporary waiver and supported other actions that will help households participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in Florida, Georgia, and the Virgin Islands as well as the Nutrition Assistance Program in Puerto Rico access food in the wake of Hurricane Irma, including:

  • Allowing SNAP participants in Florida to buy hot foods and hot ready-to-eat foods with their benefits through September 30.
  • Supporting Florida’s plan to issue all September SNAP benefits on September 7 and Georgia’s plan to issue all remaining benefits for September on September 10. Both actions will ensure families have access to their monthly benefits sooner.
  • Supporting Puerto Rico’s action to issue all September Nutrition Assistance Program benefits on September 5.

FNS is working closely with the affected states and territories to be ready, if appropriate, to make use of the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) to offer continuing food assistance after commercial channels of food distribution have been restored and families are able to prepare food at home. 

LOCAL PERSPECTIVES

  • Miami Public Housing. With the closure of a public housing development due to potential mold concerns, residents, many of whom are older Latinos, are left at the mercy of local agencies. Public transportation in the county has been halted, so these residents are left with few options.
  • Damage in Florida and South Carolina. An estimated 25% of homes in the Florida Keys were destroyed with another 65% suffering major damage. Road blockades into the Keys have been lifted, allowing residents back to return to their homes. Jacksonville and Charleston, SC are also dealing with flooding. Authorities rescued almost 400 people in Jacksonville yesterday.
  • Power down in PR. While most of Puerto Rico escaped Hurricane Irma’s power, much of the capital city of San Juan is still without power.
  • Crisis in Virgin Islands. An estimated 80% of structures on the island of St. John have suffered extensive damage. The U.S. military has deployed service members to help with relief efforts, and supplies from the mainland are being delivered. Food and other resources remain limited.

HURRICANE HARVEY 

FEMA

  • By the Numbers: (As of Tuesday afternoon)
    • 223,246 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved*
    • $305,046,333 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
    • $180,665,906 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
    • $124,380,417 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*
    • $181,034,279 Public Assistance (PA) approved*

*Assistance dollars approved but not necessarily disbursed.

  • Disaster Recovery Center. A mobile DRC opened in Wharton.
  • FEMA Hiring Texas Residents. In partnership with the State, FEMA is hiring workers across Texas for administrative, logistical, and technical jobs related to hurricane recovery. Jobs posted recently pay between $14 and $34 per hour. Some of the jobs include: administrative support assistant, civil engineer, communications specialist, construction cost estimator, courier, crisis counselor, customer service specialist, environmental specialist, floodplain management specialist, graphics specialist, hazard mitigation outreach specialist, historic preservation specialist, registered nurse, voluntary agency liaison, among others. Those interested should register at com, the Texas Workforce Commission’s website, where application instructions are posted. FEMA will announce more jobs soon.
  • Fact Sheet on Renter Assistance. A FEMA fact sheet reminds renters that they could be eligible for disaster recovery assistance from FEMA and SBA. Renters may be eligible for FEMA grants to help with such disaster-related expenses as:
  • Renting a home when the renter’s previous one is uninhabitable due to the disaster.
  • Disaster-related medical and dental expenses.
  • Replacement or repair of necessary personal property lost or damaged in the disaster, such as appliances and furniture, textbooks and computers used by students, and work equipment or tools used by the self-employed.
  • Repair or replacement of vehicles damaged by the disaster.
  • Disaster-related funeral and burial expenses.

FEMA grants do not have to be repaid. They are not taxable income and will not affect eligibility for Social Security, Medicaid, welfare assistance, SNAP benefits, and several other programs.

Renters may qualify for a low-interest SBA loan of up to $40,000 to repair or replace personal property. 

  • Fact Sheet: Why Return an SBA Loan Application. A FEMA fact sheet provides guidance regarding receipt of an SBA loan application. It indicates that after someone applies for FEMA disaster assistance, they might be contacted by SBA and asked to submit an application for a low-interest SBA disaster loan. Eligible households do not have to accept an SBA loan.

Those who do not qualify for an SBA loan will be referred back to FEMA for consideration for other FEMA grants or Other Needs Assistance (ONA) which covers items such as disaster-related car repairs, clothing, household items and other expenses. Households cannot be considered for these FEMA grants unless an SBA loan application is submitted. However, some types of Other Needs Assistance, such as medical, dental, and funeral expenses do not depend on completing the SBA application.

The filing deadline to return SBA loan applications for property damage is October 24, 2017, and the deadline to return economic injury applications is May 25, 2018.

  • Helping People who Have Disabilities. A FEMA fact sheet explains that it:
    • Can provide sign language interpreters and materials in alternate formats, such as Braille, large print and electronic formats.
  • Has amplified telephones, phones that display text, and amplified listening devices for people with hearing loss. Magnifiers are available for people with vision loss.
  • Makes Video Remote Interpreting available at Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs), and that in-person sign language is available by request. DRCs also have accessible parking, ramps, and restrooms.
  • If FEMA is participating in a local event, anyone has the right to request reasonable accommodations to support their communication needs. FEMA can provide services such as sign language interpretation and captioning if a request is made through the meeting or event host.

LOCAL PERSPECTIVES

  • Many in the Houston area remain displaced, staying at a shelter or loved ones’ homes. Over 1,000 remained at the George R. Brown Convention Center as of Friday. Others have been forced to return to their water-damaged home, despite health risks.
  • Shortage in Port Arthur. Landlords are evicting tenants because of water damage to the units. Many residents have evacuated to Dallas and are unaware of the eviction. Large numbers of evictions will cause a housing shortage in the city.
  • Houston housing shortage. People in the Houston area have been scrambling to rent any available units, especially because many properties were offering several months of free rent. Homes for sale, especially raised homes, are also in high demand with prices rising accordingly.
  • Unaffordability. Due to the housing shortage, Houston, a city that has remained relatively affordable despite rapid growth, may see housing prices rise over the next few years.
  • Help from Louisiana. Officials from Louisiana are using their experiences with last year’s floods to assist Texas with the process of re-housing people, including providing insight to their Shelter at Home program and working with FEMA.

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Monday, September 11, 2017

CONGRESS

Votes Postponed. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) postponed any votes in the House today due to the large number of absences resulting from Hurricane Irma.

HURRICANE IRMA

LOCAL PERSPECTIVES

  • Public Housing Damage. The Director of the U.S. Virgin Islands Housing Authority reports that Virgin Islands Housing Authority Central Office may not be able to reopen due to significant damage. The public housing authority has nine public housing communities on St. Thomas with 1,472 units. One development, TuTu High-Rise with 300 units, was devastated with approximately 100 units uninhabitable. They are working with HUD to secure emergency vouchers to relocate residents.
  • Homeless forcibly removed. In Miami, any person experiencing homelessness that did not willingly go to a storm shelter was warned they  would be detained at a psychiatric institution. Dade County invoked the Baker Act to hold at least six people against their will. NARPA issued a statement opposing this tactic.
  • Inequality. While wealthier Miami residents have the luxury of generators and storm proof windows, low income residents stay because they have no option. Historically, county and city relief efforts reach these communities slowly.

DISTASTER DELCARATIONS

FLORIDA

President Trump issued a major disaster declaration for Florida on September 10. FEMA has a webpage for Florida Hurricane Irma (DR-3347). In addition, Mr. Trump declared  on September 8 that an emergency exists for the Seminole Tribe of Florida and ordered Federal assistance to supplement the Tribe’s response efforts. Specifically, debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, will be provided at 75% federal funding.

All 67 counties in Florida are eligible to apply for Public Assistance (PA), making federal funds available to state, tribal, and eligible local governments, as well as certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance. For the 30-day period following the disaster declaration, assistance for emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, is authorized at 100% of the total eligible costs (instead of the standard 75%). Hazard Mitigation Grants are also available for all 67 counties at the 75% cost-sharing rate.

People in nine counties are eligible to apply for Individual Assistance (IA), which can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster. The forms of assistance include:

  • Rental payments for temporary housing. Initial assistance may be provided for up to three months for homeowners and at least one month for renters. Assistance may be extended after the initial period based on a review of individual applicant requirements.
  • Grants for home repairs and replacement of essential household items not covered by insurance to make damaged dwellings safe, sanitary, and functional.
  • Grants to replace personal property and help meet medical, dental, funeral, transportation, and other serious disaster-related needs not covered by insurance or other federal, municipality, and charitable aid programs.
  • Unemployment payments for up to 26 weeks for workers who temporarily lost jobs because of the disaster and who do not qualify for state benefits, such as self-employed individuals.
  • Low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA) to cover residential losses not fully compensated by insurance. Loans are available of up to $200,000 for primary residence, and of up to $40,000 for personal property, including renter losses. Loans are available up to $2 million for business property losses not fully compensated by insurance.
  • Loans from SBA of up to $2 million for small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, and most nonprofit organizations of all sizes that have suffered disaster-related cash flow problems and need funds for working capital to recover from the disaster’s adverse economic impact. This loan in combination with a property loss loan cannot exceed $2 million.
  • Loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency of up to $500,000 for farmers, ranchers, and aquaculture operators to cover production and property losses, excluding primary residence.
  • Other relief programs, including: crisis counseling for those traumatized by the disaster; income tax assistance for filing casualty losses; and advisory assistance for legal, veterans’ benefits, and social security matters.

U.S. Virgin Islands

On September 10, the disaster declaration was modified to authorize 90% federal cost-share for debris removal, including direct federal assistance, and a 100% federal cost-share for emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance. These percentages will be in effect for 30 days from the start of the incident period, afterward a 90% federal cost-share will be applied (the standard ratio is 75%). FEMA has a webpage for Virgin Islands Hurricane Irma (DR-4335).

Puerto Rico

Mr. Trump issued a major disaster declaration for Puerto Rico on September 10, making Individual Assistance available for people in the municipalities of Culebra and Vieques, and making Public Assistance available at a 75% federal cost-share for those two municipalities. FEMA has a webpage Puerto Rico Hurricane Irma (DR-4336).

HURRICANE HARVEY

FEMA

By the Numbers (as of Sunday evening):

  • 218,701 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved
  • $284,087,432 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
  • $163,917,266 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
  • $120,701,166 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*
  • $151,224,778 Public Assistance (PA) approved*

*Assistance dollars approved but not necessarily disbursed.

Disaster Recovery Centers. Six more Disaster Recovery Center were opened: Baytown, Dallas, a second DRC in Houston, Katy, Magnolia, and Simonton.

USDA

D-SNAP. Texans recovering from Hurricane Harvey could be eligible for disaster food benefits from the USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) through the availability of Disaster SNAP (D-SNAP) announced on September 11 by USDA and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

D-SNAP eligible households in the affected areas will receive two months of benefits, equivalent to the maximum amount of benefits normally issued to a SNAP household of their size, to meet their food needs as they settle back home following the disaster. To be eligible for D-SNAP, a household must live in an identified disaster area, have been affected by the disaster, and meet certain D-SNAP eligibility criteria. Texas Health and Human Services Commission will announce D-SNAP dates, and locations through the local media.