The following is a review of additional housing recovery developments related to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, and the California wildfires since last week’s Memo to Members and Partners (for the article in last week’s Memo, see 1/16). NLIHC also posts this information at our On the Home Front blog.
A U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report from December 2017 found that FEMA’s incomplete and inaccurate data limit its ability to administer the Public Assistance (PA) appeals process and called for process improvements. Applicants have two chances to appeal FEMA grant decisions, but the GAO analysis found that FEMA struggled to process those appeals within the 90-day limit. Only 9% of first appeals and 11% of second appeals were processed within this timeframe. FEMA concurred with all four GAO recommendations to improve its processes.
The Major Disaster Declaration for the wildfires, flooding, mudflows, and debris flows in Southern California has been amended to include Individual Assistance (IA) for Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Ventura Counties. Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties were already eligible for Public Assistance (PA) through the original declaration.
FEMA data from January 7 indicates that 15,448 Hurricane Maria survivors have left Puerto Rico for Florida and registered with FEMA. An additional 4,746 individuals are staying in 1,900 Transitional Shelter Assistance (TSA)-eligible hotel rooms.
The deadline for survivors in Puerto Rico to file for Disaster Unemployment Assistance has been extended to February 9. This FEMA-funded program provides unemployment benefits and re-employment services to individuals who became unemployed due to Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Florida Governor Rick Scott and Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló have announced a $1 million investment in twelve Florida workforce development boards in an effort to assist families displaced by Hurricane Maria. Governor Scott also announced that FEMA agreed to his request to provide case management services to Puerto Rican families in Florida. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity sent letters to local housing authorities and community leaders to identify various resources and better coordinate assistance at all levels of government for Puerto Rican families.
The nonprofit organization Florida Prosperity Partnership is partnering with Consumer PR/FL to create a one-stop web portal for Puerto Rican families in need of assistance. They are currently crowdsourcing Florida organizations, offering services to Hurricane Maria survivors through an online survey.
Survivors of Hurricane Irma in Hamilton County are now eligible to apply for Individual Assistance. The county was already designated for the Public Assistance program.
Eligible Hurricane Harvey survivors may receive an extension for the TSA program through March 12. Survivors will receive notification if they have continued eligibility and must complete a mid-term review on February 20.
Nueces County commissioners held a hearing with Kevin Hannes, FEMA’s federal coordinating officer for Hurricane Harvey in Texas, on January 3. Commissioners and residents expressed frustration with the recovery process, citing the difficult-to-navigate application process, insufficient funding, and lack of temporary housing options like FEMA trailers. Mr. Hannes stated that he believed the recovery process was “the best recovery [he has] been a part of in the last 10 years.” When county commissioners told Mr. Hannes that residents were forced to live in tents, he responded, “Everybody in Port Aransas who is living in a tent is living there by choice.”