- Free legal assistance is available for all disaster survivors in California, Florida, Puerto Rico, Texas, and the U.S. Virgin Islands through the Disaster Legal Services of the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers division. The hotline can help individuals appeal FEMA denials, make insurance claims, replace legal documents, provide counseling on landlord/tenant issues, and much more.
- Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced an agreement that would release $4.7 billion in disaster recovery loans that were approved in October 2017. The agreement allows the island to access the loans once its treasury’s cash balance falls below $1.1 billion, instead of the $800 million Secretary Mnuchin initially set. Mr. Mnuchin had also advocated for ruling out the possibility of future loan forgiveness, even though disaster recovery loans are often forgiven. The agreement ensures that repayment of these loans has higher priority than the $70 billion owed to bondholders. Puerto Rico’s legislature, the federal oversight board, and the federal judge handling its bankruptcy proceedings still need to approve the agreement.
- Puerto Rican evacuees in New York, Connecticut, and across the country continue to struggle to find long term housing. High rents prevent families from finding affordable options through the private market, and long waiting lists limit public housing authorities to offer any help.
- FEMA added Texas’ Affidavits of Facts Concerning Identity of Heirs to the Accepted Ownership Documents. Instructions will be issued to FEMA managers and their inspectors. In Texas the title vests immediately upon death of the ancestor or testator--therefore applicable to the condition of leaving a valid will as well as when someone dies without leaving a will and their estate passes under state laws of descent and distribution. FEMA has agreed to reprocess any of Lone Star Legal Aid’s denials that lost on ownership but had affidavits of heirship--even those dated after Harvey.
- According to the Texas General Land Office (GLO), more than 10,000 households have received repairs to their homes through the Partial Repair and Essential Power for Sheltering (PREPS) program. This program provides basic repairs that allow homeowners to remain in their homes while making more permanent repairs to their homes.
- In their complaint filed in the U.S. District Court last week, Texas Housers included evidence that the City of Houston “has created and maintains a separate and unequal storm water system that results in disproportionate and preventable flooding of African-American and Latino neighborhoods.” Texas Housers found that 88% of open ditch drainage is in predominately African-American neighborhoods. According to a 2014 study conducted by the city, nearly half of open drainage ditches could not provide adequate protection from flooding even in modest storms. Texas Housers’ lawsuit against HUD urges the agency to force Houston to address this and other issues before allocating CDBG-DR funding.