- Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) issued a statement on August 30 in response to the U.S. District Court’s denial of a preliminary injunction filed by housing advocates to prevent FEMA from ending the Transitional Shelter Assistance program for evacuees of Hurricane Maria.
- The House Small Business Committee held a hearing titled, “Surveying Storms: A Deeper Dive into SBA’s Disaster Response” on September 5. James Rivera, Associate Administrator of the Small Business Administration, reviewed the agency’s performance during the 2017 storm season and answered questions of the committee members. Ranking Member Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) cited the Office of Inspector General report on SBA’s disaster response to Hurricane Maria and—among other things—how SBA did not fully anticipate the need for bilingual staff hires or translation services. This caused some survivors to experience estimated wait times of over 45 minutes or dropped calls.
- A U.S. District Court in Massachusetts ruled against a preliminary injunction blocking the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s decision to end its Temporary Shelter Assistance (TSA) program for survivors of Hurricane Maria. The judge stated there was no legal basis requiring FEMA to continue providing assistance and extended the deadline for those remaining in TSA hotels to September 13 (with check out on the 14th).
- The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a new study on FEMA’s response to the 2017 hurricane and wildfire season. The study shows that of the 1.1 million households that applied for housing assistance – 6,907 received TSA hotel assistance; another 286 applicants received assistance through the Direct Lease or Multifamily Lease Repair programs, Manufactured Housing Units and RVs, or permanent construction repair; and 33,016 received assistance to allow them to remain in their homes. The study acknowledges the challenges associated with FEMA’s decision to shift responsibility for housing recovery to the affected states. The GAO provides report highlights at its website and on a podcast at Watchblog.
- FEMA released a series of videos illustrating the response to Hurricane Irma in Florida. The videos cover a range of topics, including volunteers, mitigation, recovery, and housing.
- FEMA awarded over $81 million to Harris County Flood Control District to acquire 502 homes damaged by Hurricane Harvey. The flood-prone homes will be removed, and the land will be maintained as open space to promote the natural floodplain.
- Texas Housers released “A Costly and Unequal Burden”--an analysis of the City of Houston’s revisions to its floodplain management code. The policy brief recommends a three-pronged approach to prioritizing public funds for flood mitigation in low-income neighborhoods, including grants to households choosing to rebuild and elevate ohomes as well as the creation of a buyout program for households desiring to move out of flood areas.
A New York Times article featured stories of low income and minority residents affected by Hurricane Harvey – highlighting the unequal recovery effort, particularly with regard to