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 7/22).
In testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee, the Government Accountability (GAO) Office provided updates on actions taken by FEMA after a May GAO report found FEMA did not adequately make its assistance programs accessible to individuals with disabilities and older Americans. Although the GAO found FEMA has made limited changes to improve accessibility, the office expressed concerns the changes are being made before fully training staff members.
Tornado survivors in the Miami Valley who were denied disaster assistance by FEMA are in limbo as they attempt to navigate the appeals process.
Six new FEMA Mobile Disaster Recovery Centers have opened in Cherokee, Ponca City, Kingfisher, Alva, Spiro and Claremore counties in response to the flooding and severe weather experienced by the state this season.
West Virginia Flooding
The West Virginia legislature decided to wait until its next legislative session to act on allegations of slow spending in its efforts to rebuild housing lost to the 2017 floods. Legislators cited the need to continue studying the issue over the break.
As of July 19, more than 7,500 properties have been cleared of debris from the 2018 Camp Fire. The Town of Paradise had its third meeting regarding its water system recovery plan.
Officials from Bastrop County, TX visited the town of Paradise to talk about best practices in disaster recovery and how Bastrop County, the scene of a disastrous 2011 fire, has worked to rebuild its community.
DHRC member and NLIHC state partner the Florida Housing Coalition is holding a webinar on how housing staff can best leverage the new “Rebuild Restore” program to help low-income homeowners repair after Hurricane Michael. You can register here.
Low-income residents of Quincy, FL, are blaming Hurricane Michael for their rapidly increasing utility bills. The town voted to create a surcharge on power bills to pay for some recovery efforts, but low-income residents are arguing the costs are too high.
Only 175 out of 971 families in FEMA’s Temporary Shelter Assistance Program have found permanent homes and transitioned out of their temporary units.
Hurricane Maria: The U.S. Department of Commerce announced it would be awarding a $1.2 million grant to Operation Hope, Inc., in Atlanta, GA, to provide workshops on small business development. A vast majority of the island has been designated an Opportunity Zone under the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.”
Hurricane Harvey: After finding that only four individuals had received financial assistance from a City of Houston-administered housing program, local reporters are asking individuals who have not received assistance to share their stories.