The continuing partial shutdown of the federal government is having serious impacts on disaster recovery efforts. Additional government funding, as well as guidance regarding previously appropriated dollars are all delayed, preventing communities from continuing the recovery process.
The timing of additional disaster relief funding is uncertain as negotiations to end the shutdown have stalled. In December, the Republican-controlled House passed a $7.8 billion package for disaster recovery as part of a stopgap funding measure that included the $5.7 billion in border security requested by President Trump. The measure failed to pass in the Senate, however, and the House Democrats in the new Congress last week announced a $12.14 billion disaster aid package that includes $1.16 billion in Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds, as well as a new allocation of $600 million for nutrition assistance in Puerto Rico not included in the House Republicans’ previous plan. House Democrats hope to pass their package in the coming weeks as they begin to vote on individual appropriations bills, but the continued impasse over the funding for President Trump’s desired southern border wall may delay this disaster relief.
HUD guidelines regarding previously allocated funding will also be further delayed. Congress appropriated $16 billion in disaster mitigation funds in February, 2018, to be used for projects to better safeguard communities damaged by the 2017 floods and hurricanes in Puerto Rico, Texas, Louisiana, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Florida. HUD has yet to issue guidance for this spending, however, and the guidance will be further delayed by the shutdown. Texas General Land Officer George P. Bush recently wrote a letter urging Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, who is now serving as President Trump’s acting chief of staff, to approve the rules for this funding as soon as possible.
The shutdown will likewise delay guidance for the $1.68 billion in disaster relief that Congress passed in October 2018 for states impacted by Hurricane Florence. North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper wrote a letter to President Trump asking him to end the shutdown to speed recovery efforts.
The government shutdown has prompted HUD to use its waiver authority to extend the period of review for pending CDBG-DR Action Plans and Action Plan Amendments from 45 days to 60 days. This will allow HUD more time to review state action plans before approving or rejecting them.