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NLIHC Statement on Reintroduction of the Reforming Disaster Recovery Act

Washington, D.C. – The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) and the NLIHC-led Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC) of nearly 900 local, state, and national organizations support the reintroduction of the “Reforming Disaster Recovery Act of 2023.

The bill seeks to permanently authorize the federal government’s long-term Community Development Block Grant–Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program, and ensure these resources better reach disaster survivors in communities with the lowest incomes. The bill was introduced by Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Susan Collins (R-ME), Patty Murray (D-WA), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Jon Tester (D-MT), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Todd Young (R-IN), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Alex Padilla (D-CA).

“Our nation’s disaster housing recovery system is fundamentally broken and in need of major reform,” said NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel. “After each disaster, the lowest-income, most marginalized people and communities are left behind. Households are at increased risk of displacement and, in worst cases, homelessness. This places already disinvested communities at greater risk of harm due to future disasters. NLIHC and its DHRC urge Congress to quickly enact the bipartisan Reforming Disaster Recovery Act as an important step towards ensuring critical federal recovery resources can efficiently and quickly reach those with the greatest, clearest needs.”

Disasters are becoming both more frequent and more severe. The lowest-income and most marginalized households most at-risk of flooding and other disasters are often home to low-income seniors, people with disabilities, families with young children, people experiencing homelessness and other historically marginalized people – who are least able to evacuate prior to a disaster. These communities are also least likely to have financial resources to recover afterward. Despite the tremendous need, these populations are consistently left behind by our country’s disaster housing recovery system.

Currently, HUD is required to issue new regulations when funding is provided by Congress. This requirement, however, slows the distribution of funding and prevents states and municipalities from anticipating and preparing for the receipt of funding before disasters occur. Permanent authorization creates a framework for a more efficient and consistent delivery of resources to disaster-impacted communities following a disaster.

The bill also includes several reforms to ensure critical housing resources reach households and communities with the greatest needs. The bill directs HUD to target resources to the most impacted and distressed areas, requires resources to be allocated proportionally between homeowners and renters, and prioritizes activities that address housing needs and prepare for future disasters. The legislation maintains the current requirement that 70 percent of federal recovery funding benefits low- and moderate-income people and provides clearer direction on when this requirement can be adjusted. The bill also promotes greater data transparency and accountability by making important data about the impact of the disaster and program outcomes available to the public. This transparency will aid in fostering effective public participation and supporting nonprofits, researchers and state and local governments in identifying service gaps. 

“This bipartisan legislation is an important step towards equitable disaster housing recovery and rebuilding,” said Yentel. “By authorizing the CDBG-DR program, Congress can not only help ensure that federal housing recovery resources are distributed more quickly to communities, but it can ensure that resources reach those with the greatest needs and steepest path to recovery.”

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