Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Monday, September 11, 2017


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.



  • 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.



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).



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.


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.

August 31: Latest updates on Hurricane Harvey housing recovery

Dear partners,

As the scope of the damage becomes clear, experts and policymakers are stressing just how important housing solutions will be for long-term recovery from Hurricane Harvey. Vice President Mike Pence said that “housing is the biggest long-term concern in the hurricane zone.” Current FEMA director Brock Long said, “the state of Texas is about to undergo one of the largest recovery-housing missions that the nation has ever seen,” and experts like former FEMA director Craig Fugate have predicted that the “primary largest impact on the region will be housing.




We’ve been in close touch with key Congressional leaders. The Texas delegation has begun conversations about disaster aid with House and Senate leaders, FEMA, and the White House. Republican leaders have said (although this is certainly subject to change) that Congress will take up a limited disaster aid bill in mid-September, with additional resources to follow at the end of the month when Congress enacts a Continuing Resolution and afterwards. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) is calling for $150 billion in aid to assist in recovery efforts. Republicans in the delegation are also calling for significant disaster recovery funding from Congress.  


  • FEMA’s website devoted to Texas Hurricane Harvey lists the designated areas currently eligible for three forms of assistance:
    • Public Assistance grant program provides assistance to government organizations and certain private nonprofit organizations to repair or replace disaster-damaged facilities.
    • Hazard mitigation grants provide assistance to state and local governments and certain private nonprofits to prevent or reduce long-term risk to life and property from natural disasters.
    • Individuals and Households Program (IHP) provides for certain housing and other needs. Housing needs covered include temporary housing, lodging expense reimbursement, and costs not covered by insurance to repair or replace owner-occupied homes. Other needs covered include the cost of: child care, medical and dental treatment, funerals, damage to household item such as appliances, vehicle damage, clean up, and moving and storage.


  • Rural Development: RD has created a webpage, outlining assistance available after a disaster for displaced residents, owners of USDA-financed multifamily housing, and homeowners with USDA loan. 


Other Resources:

More to come…



August 30: Updates on Hurricane Harvey housing recovery

Click here to download a Temporary Assistance form for Disaster Housing

Thanks for such an overwhelmingly positive response for next week’s call to discuss Hurricane Harvey Housing Recovery. Please continue to share the invite with others or to send me the names of other people/orgs interested in participating.


  • The Texas Low Income Housing Information Service, an NLIHC state partner, released this video of John Henneberger breaking down what’s ahead for Hurricane Harvey recovery – I highly recommend you watch. John has extensive experience with disaster recovery in Texas and works closely with partners, advocates and impacted people in Houston and beyond.
  • Texas Tribune published a list of resources for individuals seeking shelter and other basic needs for circulation to your networks:


  • Register for Assistance: The most important first step for disaster recovery assistance is for impacted people to register with FEMA. Please circulate this information to your networks – people can register at or call (800) 621-FEMA (3362). Individuals who have speech disabilities or hearing loss and use TTY should call (800) 462-7585 directly; those who use 711 or Video Relay Service should call (800) 621-3362. Both toll-free numbers will be operational from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time seven days a week until further notice, according to FEMA.
  • Temporary Housing Assistance Providers: Attached is a questionnaire for potential housing providers to help FEMA understand what housing options are available for displaced individuals and families. Any third party/private sector entities sending inquiries about available housing solutions should email


  • Secretary Carson announced HUD will speed federal disaster assistance to Texas – this includes reallocating existing federal dollars toward disaster recovery – including current CDBG and HOME funds – offering Section 108 loan guarantee assistance, and foreclosure relief and insurance under its FHA/mortgage programs. A link to his statement is here:
  • Office of Multifamily Housing Programs has started its process of contacting owners and agents to determine damage assessments and vacancies for displaced persons. They expect to have responses from HUD property contacts soon and will use this info, in addition to the FEMA damage assessments that will take place in the coming days and weeks, to put together the Administration’s funding request from Congress. PIH staff are also reaching out to PHAs in the impacted region for initial public housing damage assessments.



After FEMA and HUD have time to assess the damage from the hurricane, OMB will send a formal request to Congress for disaster aid, typically including CDBG -Disaster Relief funds and Disaster Housing Vouchers. Congress will also likely look to provide tax relief to impacted communities, possibly included a disaster LIHTC allocation. We have been in touch with key members of Congress and at HUD, OMB and the White House to work with them as a disaster relief package moves forward.

Timing is a little uncertain, as with all disasters but especially in this Congress. Some resources may be tied to a Continuing Resolution or final appropriations bill, which Congress must enact by October 1 or risk a government shutdown. Congressional leadership have begun informally debating whether disaster supplemental spending will be doled out over a series of small bills, or through one large relief bill like the ones enacted after Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Katrina. In either case, we’ll have our work cut out for us – Texas Senators Cornyn and Cruz voted against disaster relief in the past, and Vice President Pence and OMB Director Mulvaney led (failed) efforts to offset disaster aid with deep cuts to other programs when they served in the U.S. House of Representatives.

More to come…



News Round-Up: Sequestration and the Housing Shortage

Last week, NLIHC released Housing Spotlight: America’s Affordable Housing Shortage, and How to End It. It’s a startling look into the depth of the affordable housing shortage facing extremely low income households, providing data at both the national and state levels showing the amount of housing needed is far greater than what is affordable and available to the lowest income renters.

Prior to the release of our report, HUD released a summary of its report to Congress on the worst case housing needs. As the Seattle Medium notes, the report shows 8.48 million renter households experiencing the worst case housing needs– severely unaffordable housing, substandard housing conditions or both– which represents a 43.5% increase since 2007.

The local CBS affiliate in Phoenix reports that due to the shortage of affordable rentals available to the lowest income people, three out of four of these renters will spend more than half of their incomes on housing costs.

Foster’s Daily Democrat in New Hampshire reports on the HUD worst case needs report, and notes that while rents in the state are increasing, the data shows that vacancy rates are down, adding another layer of difficulty for lower income renters.

While the data continue to show that low income renters face a severe housing shortage, the federal programs that help the poorest Americans with their housing needs are now subject to deep cuts. As the New York Times reports, sequestration, which took effect Friday, will result in hundreds of thousands of very poor households losing their housing assistance and becoming at risk of homelessness.

News Round-Up: Desperate Measures

Poor-quality housing conditions are often a fact of life for the poorest Americans. Two stories this week show the impact this reality has on families, and the different ways the story plays out in private and public housing.

On this blog, Senior Vice President for Policy and Research Linda Couch writes about family friends living in poverty and struggling for stability. Forced to leave the room they rented due to living conditions deemed unsafe by the local government, this family is hungry and nearly homeless. Linda knows all too well the conditions this family faces in the rental market, and wonders if there is a better life in their future.

Often, residents of federally assisted housing live in poor condition similar to their low income counterparts in private rental housing. As an article in the Tampa Bay Times explains, years of cuts to federal spending on public housing means public housing agencies often don’t have the funds necessary to operate and adequately maintain their housing. In response, HUD launched the Rental Assistance Demonstration, which allows housing agencies to seek out private investors to raise the capital necessary to maintain high-quality housing. Housing officials and advocates alike acknowledge the risks of private funding, but with housing need growing and budget cuts a fact of life for HUD-funded programs, many housing agencies see no other choice.