Hurricane Ian slammed into the southwest and central coast of Florida as a Category 4 storm on September 28. The storm had moved south from its expected path, largely sparing the population center of Tampa but causing devastating destruction in communities such as Fort Myers, Fort Myers Beach, Port Charlotte, Sanibel Island, Bonita Springs, Cape Coral, and Naples. Winds raged above 100 mph, and historic levels of storm surge flooded oceanfront and inland neighborhoods with over 12 feet of water in some areas. The storm then moved across central Florida, causing widespread flooding, before exiting the peninsula as a tropical storm, re-strengthening into a Category 1 hurricane, and striking the South Carolina coast during the afternoon of September 30.
Hurricane Ian comes in the wake of Hurricane Fiona, which impacted Puerto Rico just two weeks ago. That storm poured 30 inches of rain on the island, destroying or damaging thousands of homes and knocking out power and water service to the entire island. Puerto Ricans are still reeling from damage and displacement from Hurricane Maria, and from a delayed, patchwork recovery following that storm.
After the immediate response and recovery work is finished, the equally difficult and much longer-term work to rebuild will begin in Puerto Rico and Florida, just as it continues in Louisiana, Texas, California, and Kentucky. NLIHC and its Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC) are committed to working with our state and local partners in all impacted communities, and with national and other allies, to achieve an equitable and complete housing recovery that prioritizes the needs of the lowest-income and most marginalized people, including renters and people experiencing homelessness.
Below you will find updates on the response to Hurricanes Ian and Fiona, with an emphasis on the needs of those most impacted during disasters: households with low incomes. This webpage will be updated as new information becomes available.
- Hurricane Ian
- On Wednesday, October 5, President Biden and FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell traveled to Fort Myers, Florida, to meet with small-business owners and local residents impacted by Hurricane Ian and thank the federal, state, and local officials working around the clock to provide lifesaving assistance, restore power, distribute food and water, remove debris, and begin rebuilding efforts.
- Highlands and Lake counties are now eligible for FEMA assistance following Hurricane Ian. These counties join Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Flagler, Hardee, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Orange, Osceola, Pinellas, Polk, Putnam, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Johns, and Volusia counties in being approved for Individual Assistance.
- Hurricane Ian caused catastrophic flooding in inland areas of Florida after the storm battered the coast. While coastal flooding was created by storm surge, inland flooding was caused by rain.
- FEMA has released a new fact sheet on citizenship and FEMA eligibility that outlines how noncitizens may access services and supports. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Routine (ICE) stated that non-criminal immigration enforcement operations will not be conducted at evacuation sites or assistance centers such as shelters or food banks. In addition, ICE and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) remind the public that sites that provide emergency response and relief are considered protected areas.
- FEMA released a fact sheet on the availability of public assistance for houses of worship and private nonprofit organizations.
- Overall, nearly 300 FEMA Disaster Survivor Assistance (DSA) specialists are active in Florida helping survivors apply for assistance.
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) has approved the use of Disaster-Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP), providing assistance for the purchase of food for those impacted by Hurricane Ian.
- HUD announced the implementation of federal disaster relief for the State of Florida to assist state, tribal, and local recovery efforts for areas affected by Hurricane Ian. Among other programs, HUD will share FEMA and state information on housing providers that may have available units in impacted counties, such as public housing agencies and multi-family owners. The department will also provide flexibilities to Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) grantees, those utilizing the Housing Opportunities for Persons with HIV/AIDS (HOPWA) program, and Housing Trust Fund programs, as well as to public housing agencies and tribes. HUD also issued a memorandum explaining the changes.
- FEMA National Flood Insurance Program policyholders are beginning to receive distributed funds. To date, FEMA has provided $3.5 million in advance payments to policyholders who have started the claim process. FEMA has also taken steps to ease burdens on its policyholders as they begin to clean up and repair, including allowing some who need to renew policies to take advantage of flood insurance benefits.
- Hurricane Ian has heightened Florida’s affordable housing crisis, exacerbating inequities in relief and recovery efforts. Those without renters’ insurance are having an even more difficult time beginning the recovery process.
- Public housing in Key West, Florida, was significantly impacted by Hurricane Ian. The storm impacted the Florida Keys early in its approach to the continental U.S.
- In Florida, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has activated its Operation Blue Roof program for parishes approved for individual assistance.
- The remnants of Hurricane Ian impacted Maryland and Delaware beaches throughout last week, causing substantial eroding and flooding several coastal towns.
- Escaping a hurricane like Ian is often easier said than done. The logistics of evacuation can be extremely daunting for those with specific needs, according to a recent article in The Atlantic.
- Hurricane Fiona
Survivors of Hurricane Fiona in Puerto Rico are being offered several quicker alternatives to initiate the recovery process when applying for FEMA disaster assistance than the regular FEMA registration phoneline. These options include downloading a FEMA application and visiting www.disasterassistance.gov or the nearest joint Disaster Recovery Center (DRC). Additional FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers have opened in Barranquitas and Río Grande.
The Puerto Rico Health Department is estimating that at least 25 deaths are linked to Hurricane Fiona.
President Biden reiterated that homeowners, renters, and business owners are eligible to apply for federal help to recover from damages and losses caused by Hurricane Fiona during remarks in Ponce, Puerto Rico, on October 3.
President Biden’s comments in support of the island were appreciated, but some wonder whether the administration is promising enough.
More than 101,000 households were still without power as of October 5, two weeks after Hurricane Fiona impacted Puerto Rico.
HUD issued a memorandum explaining the availability of suspensions and waivers of certain statutory and regulatory requirements associated with several Community Planning and Development (CPD) grant programs, including the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) program, to address damage and facilitate recovery from Hurricane Fiona.
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has directed the USDA to aid recovery efforts for farmers, ranchers, and residents affected by Hurricane Fiona. USDA staff in offices across the country are ready to respond with a variety of program flexibilities and other assistance to producers and communities in need.
Hurricane Fiona’s landfall on the fifth-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria had substantial impact on the mental health of Puerto Ricans.
Employees or self-employed individuals in Puerto Rico who became unemployed as a direct consequence of Hurricane Fiona, may be eligible to receive Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA). Survivors from all 78 municipalities are eligible to apply for disaster assistance.
FEMA released a fact sheet for survivors of Hurricane Fiona on what to expect during a FEMA Housing Inspection.
Puerto Rico residents affected by Hurricane Fiona can now receive free legal disaster-related assistance to help them through the recovery process. To be eligible for these services survivors must have been directly affected by the disaster and not have sufficient means to hire an attorney for legal disaster-related issues.
President Biden reiterated that homeowners, renters, business owners are eligible to apply for federal help to recover damage, losses caused by Hurricane Fiona during his Remarks by President Biden on Hurricane Fiona Response and Recovery Efforts.
Survivors from Hurricane Fiona in Puerto Rico are offered several, quicker alternatives to initiate their recovery process when applying for FEMA disaster assistance, than the regular FEMA registration phoneline. These options include downloading the FEMA application, visiting www.disasterassistance.gov or the nearest joint Disaster Recovery Center (DRC).
- Congressional Updates
Congress approved a continuing resolution (CR) to continue funding the federal government through December 16. The bill – passed by the Senate with a vote of 72-25 earlier this month and by the House of Representatives with a vote of 230-201 on September 30 – includes a number of disaster recovery measures. Chief among them is nearly $2 billion in HUD long-term disaster recovery funds for disasters occurring in 2021 and 2022.
Florida’s Senate delegation sent a letter to U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee leadership on September 30 requesting a disaster supplemental to provide assistance to Florida and Puerto Rico.
Congressman Matt Gaetz is requesting federal assistance to Florida following Hurricane Ian, just two days after he voted against a stop-gap measure that included $18.8 billion for FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund.
- Florida’s Senate delegation sent a letter to U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee leadership on September 30 requesting a disaster supplemental to provide assistance to Florida and Puerto Rico.
- Congressman Matt Gaetz is requesting federal assistance to Florida following Hurricane Ian, just two days after he voted against a stop-gap measure that included $18.8 billion for FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund.
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