Washington, DC – The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced yesterday, the creation of the Rapid Unsheltered Survivor Housing (RUSH) program to help the lowest-income and most marginalized disaster survivors regain or maintain stable, affordable housing. This announcement follows years of advocacy by the NLIHC-led Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC).
RUSH will provide displaced disaster survivors with the longer-term direct rental assistance and supportive services they need to get back on their feet. The program will provide rapid re-housing assistance, including up to 24 months of rental assistance, as well as supportive services for people currently experiencing homelessness and those at risk of homelessness through its network of housing providers and experts. Program funds are also eligible to cover move-in expenses, outreach costs, and other urgent needs for individuals that are unsheltered. RUSH funding will be available for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness, including those with incomes at or below 30% of Area Median Income and living in overcrowded homes, facing imminent eviction, or experiencing another risk factor for homelessness.
“Too often, FEMA relies on housing programs that are inaccessible to disaster survivors with the greatest needs, putting them at higher risk of eviction, displacement, and in worst cases, homelessness,” said National Low Income Housing Coalition President and CEO Diane Yentel. “I applaud HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge for her leadership in launching RUSH to immediately fill the gap caused by FEMA’s inadequate response to the housing needs of low-income disaster survivors. This new program will prevent untold suffering and ensure that homelessness isn’t prolonged or newly created by disasters.”
RUSH is similar to the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP), which advocates identify as a best practice for disaster housing recovery. DHAP was created after hard-won lessons from Hurricane Katrina, and it has been used successfully after major disasters. Despite support from both Democratic and Republican Administrations, FEMA has refused to activate DHAP in recent years. The Biden-Harris administration previously announced plans to create a similar program in time for the 2022 Hurricane season, but progress was halted after FEMA backtracked and refused to activate the program.
For households with low incomes displaced by a disaster, FEMA housing assistance is often inaccessible and inadequate, due to an overly complex application process, arbitrary deadlines, and failure to keep pace with rising post-disaster rents. As a result, these households typically face long-term displacement and, in worst cases, homelessness after a disaster. Individuals that were experiencing homelessness prior to a disaster are ineligible for most forms of FEMA assistance, including the Transitional Shelter Assistance (TSA) Program and rental assistance.
HUD has set aside $56 million in reallocated Emergency Shelter Grants (ESG) to fund RUSH and has made a first set of $6.8 million in RUSH grants to the state of Florida and seven Florida localities impacted by Hurricane Ian. HUD will make a second allocation later this year. While NLIHC commends HUD for its leadership and sense of urgency in identifying appropriate funds to respond – in the absence of FEMA action - to critical housing needs from Hurricane Ian, it is important that longer-term funding for this program be through FEMA’s Disaster Recovery Fund (DRF). NLIHC and our Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition will continue urging FEMA to partner with and fund HUD to administer a robust disaster housing recovery program.
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