Additional Disaster Housing Recovery Updates - July 22, 2019

The following is a review of additional disaster housing recovery developments since the last edition of Memo to Members and Partners (for the article in the previous Memo, see 7/15).

Federal Action

The Department of Homeland Security Inspector General released a report finding that FEMA erred in providing funds for a contract between the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority and Cobra Acquisitions LLC to restore power on the island after Hurricane Maria. The report specifically called FEMA’s decision to use public assistance funds for the contract “unsound and unsupported.”

Political upheaval and scandal in Puerto Rico has led some to call for additional oversight over federal disaster recovery funds. Some lawmakers worry the situation will make getting disaster recovery assistance to the island even more difficult. 

The New York Times highlighted major staffing deficiencies at FEMA, saying the agency’s staff has decreased 55% in two years, while the number of federally declared disasters has doubled. 

A recent study found the proliferation of urban sprawl has made flooding during rain events more damaging and more likely.

Midwest Flooding


Missouri officials have asked FEMA to expand its disaster declaration to include 21 additional counties. Flooding across the Midwest has inundated many communities, a situation made worse by the remnants of Hurricane Barry. 

California Wildfires

California Governor Gavin Newsom certified the Town of Paradise as a “rural area” paving the way for the town to receive recovery funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The last of the debris from 2018’s Hill and Woolsey fires has finally been cleared. Overall debris removal from areas destroyed by the Camp Fire has just reached the half-way point.

A new study found the number of acres burned every year in California has seen a five-fold increase in the last 45 years due to increasing areas of dry air caused by climate change.

Midwest Tornados


In Dayton, multiple organizations have come together to form the Miami Valley Long-term Recovery Operations Group. As residents question why FEMA has only authorized its Transitional Shelter Assistance Program to assist survivors who lost their homes, the new coalition is working to assist Miami Valley residents find longer-term shelter.

Hurricane Michael


After ratifying its disaster recovery plan, Bay County’s Long-Range Recovery Task Force has just 11 weeks to decide which of the 114 projects needing HUD funding will receive priority.

Hurricane Florence

North Carolina

DHRC member Catholic Charities USA>spotlights its Raleigh chapter’s efforts to rebuild homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence.

Wilmington celebrates the start of a new affordable housing project, but city leaders recognize they still have a long way to go. 

2017 Disasters

Hurricane Harvey: The EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report criticizing the agency’s outreach to communities of color in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. The OIG found that Houston residents lacked adequate access to translated guidance on water and waste management after the storm, and the OIG recommended the local EPA office conduct additional outreach to minority and immigrant communities in advance of future storms.

Hurricane Maria: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its testimony from a hearing on Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands recovery held by the House Homeland Security Committee. The testimony provides an update on FEMA’s Public Assistance Program on the islands. The GAO found multiple issues still exist with the program, from governing rules that lack clarity to the length of time needed to implement new procedures laid out by FEMA in Puerto Rico.