Congressional committees held several hearings the week of October 30 on the federal response to the recent hurricanes. The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs conducted an oversight hearing on October 31 to assess the immediate response from agencies such as FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing on November 1 to examine effectiveness and efficiency of HUD’s Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program.
The House Committee on Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing regarding HUD’s CDBG-DR program on November 1. Helen Albert, acting inspector general in the Office of the Inspector General for HUD, was the sole witness. She described the program as vital to long term recovery efforts. Ms. Albert warned that excessive waivers on CDBG-DR funding, such as a reduction of funds reserved for low to moderate income households, harm the intended purpose of the program. Ms. Albert also acknowledged that CDBG-DR funds have been used inappropriately in the past, but offered several recommendations for improvement. She said that HUD needs additional staff devoted to disaster recovery in order to provide better guidance and oversite. She also suggested that instead of issuing a Federal Register notice for each disaster, HUD should be instructed by Congress to formally codify a single disaster recovery program to ensure a permanent formal framework for future disasters. Ms. Albert also recommended that HUD work with the Small Business Administration (SBA) and Congress to ensure that there is a clear and established order of funding priority for recipients, because SBA loans, although disbursed quickly, must be repaid, while CDBG-DR grants arrive later but do not have to be repaid. In response to a question from Representative Joyce Beatty (D-OH), Ms. Albert said she does not believe HUD currently has the resources to administer CDBG-DR.
During the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, witnesses testified the about their agencies’ work following Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Questions focused mostly on restoring power in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and FEMA’s role in the disaster response process. FEMA Administrator Brock Long stressed that local and state governments should be leading the efforts as much as possible and advocated for more funding to ensure cities and states are resilient and disaster-ready. Neither witnesses nor committee members mentioned short-, medium-, or long-term housing needs.
Learn more about the House Committee on Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing at: http://bit.ly/2zbZbhF
Learn more about the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing at: http://bit.ly/2yQCIDI