The following is a review of housing recovery developments related to Hurricanes Florence and Michael since last week’s Memo to Members and Partners (for the article in last week’s Memo, see 10/15). NLIHC also posts this information at our On the Home Front blog.
The Practicing Law Institute has a free on-demand web program on “FEMA Assistance and Overall Disaster Relief” for any attorneys interested in helping with pro bono disaster legal services.
During a tour on October 15 through Hurricane Michael-impacted areas in Florida and Georgia, President Trump praised the federal and state response and said he would ask Congress for additional emergency disaster assistance. Congress recently approved $1.68 billion for disaster recovery following Hurricane Florence and is likely to pass additional aid following the November midterm elections.
FEMA Administrator Brock Long on October 12 criticized residents that did not evacuate prior to the arrival of Hurricane Michael. He stated that those living on the coast have “not learned the lesson” to heed evacuation warnings and stressed the need for additional resiliency in these communities. NLIHC conducted an analysis that suggested as many as 80,000 families lacked reliable transportation and thousands more lacked financial resources to evacuate.
More than 1,100 people from areas impacted by Hurricane Michael were still missing as of October 17. Most of those missing are from Panama City, many of whom are older, have a disability, or are low income. Cell reception is still being restored throughout the area, so many people may be safe but unable to contact relatives and friends. At least 35 people have died because of the hurricane. As of October 19, over 100,000 households still lacked power.
A total of 12 counties in Florida are eligible for Individual Assistance and Public Assistance (Categories A and B). An additional four counties are eligible only for Public Assistance (Categories A and B).
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is assisting homeowners with temporary roof repairs through the Operation Blue Roof program, which provides blue plastic sheeting as temporary covering to prevent additional damage.
HUD issued a press release with information about the various forms of relief available to households impacted by Hurricane Michael in Florida. This assistance includes immediate foreclosure relief on Federal Housing Administrations (FHFA)-insured mortgages and increased insurance options and availability.
USDA approved a waiver on October 14 that allows SNAP recipients to buy hot foods with their benefits through October 31. USDA has also granted Florida the ability to approve automatic mass replacements of SNAP benefits for residents of counties and ZIP codes that experienced power outages and flooding.
Survivors can pick up emergency supplies at a number of distribution locations. The Florida Division of Emergency Management maintains a list of these locations as well as a map. The state has also created a webpage for individuals to report individuals missing, well-being checks, and other concerns about loved ones. Additionally, utility companies and the state have created a dashboard to track power outages.
A press release from Governor Scott states that FEMA has approved Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) for residents in Bay County. TSA allows survivors to stay in FEMA-funded hotels while they look for longer-term housing solutions.
Following coordination between the governors of the three states, pharmacies in Alabama and Georgia are now authorized to offer prescription refills to survivors from Florida.
Residents in any county approved for Individual Assistance are eligible to apply for Disaster Unemployment Assistance through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO). The deadline to apply is November 14. The Florida DEO will also administer the National Dislocated Worker Grant, which provides temporary employment opportunities that support storm response and recovery efforts.
The Florida Housing Finance Corporation is helping those displaced by the storm find affordable rental housing through its service Socialserve. Those looking for housing can visit www.FloridaHousingSearch.org. Florida Housing will also initiate the State Housing Initiative Partnership (SHIP) program, which provides local governments with funds for homeownership and rental housing programs. Each fiscal year, Florida Housing can earmark up to $5 million for recovery efforts.
Local Perspectives & Resources
A legal aid hotline for Hurricane Michael is now open: 1-866-550-2929
President Trump issued a Major Disaster Declaration (DR-4400) for Georgia on October 15. Thirteen counties are eligible for Individual Assistance, and a total of 31 counties can receive Public Assistance (Categories A and B).
President Trump issued an Emergency Declaration (EM-3407) for Alabama on October 13. The declaration provides Public Assistance (Category B) in 17 counties and the Poarch Creek Reservation and Trust Lands.
Residents in Anson, Orange, and Union counties are now eligible for IA through FEMA. An additional thirteen counties are now eligible for Public Assistance (PA) Categories A and B (emergency protective measures and debris removal). Additionally, twenty-seven counties previously eligible for PA Categories A and B are now also eligible for all permanent work assistance (Categories C – G). PA provides grants to state, tribal, and local governments, where the federal share covers not less than 75% of eligible costs.
In a FAQ for survivors who were impacted by both Hurricanes Florence and Matthew, FEMA provides guidance and clarification regarding the application process. Another FAQ addresses concerns regarding proving homeownership.
FEMA has given final notice to the public that it will place temporary housing units (THUs) on commercial or private sites located in or affecting a floodplain or wetland. Units will be placed on a survivor’s property when possible, and all THU installations are temporary and will comply with local, state, federal, and tribal laws and requirements.
FEMA encourages anyone who was displaced from their HUD-assisted housing to apply for FEMA assistance. These households may receive help from FEMA until they are relocated back to HUD-assisted or public housing or sign a new lease using a Housing Choice Voucher.
A fact sheet provides additional information on “duplication of benefits.” FEMA may consider any disaster assistance – including money from insurance, charities, or other government agencies – when determining the amount of FEMA assistance for a survivor. This does not include government benefits received prior to the disaster.
Governor Roy Cooper signed “An Act to Enact the 2018 Hurricane Florence Disaster Recovery Act” (SB 3) on October 16. In a statement, Governor Cooper said he “appreciate[s] legislators responding quickly and taking this initial step to help North Carolinians recover,” but he stated he also wants to “provide more for affordable housing.” The bill appropriates $394.5 million from the Hurricane Florence Disaster Recovery Fund for the 2018-2019 fiscal year. The North Carolina Housing Finance Agency receives $10 million of that total.
Local Perspectives & Resources
HUD Secretary Ben Carson and Labor Secretary Alex Acosta joined members of North Carolina’s congressional delegation to tour the impacts of Hurricane Florence in Wilmington, NC on October 15.
Community members in Wilmington demanded answers about housing assistance from City Council members. Several apartment complexes have closed due to unsafe conditions, leaving tenants with few options in an already tight rental market.
The Charlotte Observer reports that FEMA has begun delivering travel trailers, RVs, and manufactured homes for North Carolinians in need of temporary housing while their homes are repaired.
The deadline for applying for assistance with FEMA or the Small Business Administration was November 20.
South Carolina has closed all of the emergency shelters opened in response to Hurricanes Florence and Michael.