Additional Disaster Housing Recovery Updates – March 1, 2021

The NLIHC-led Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition is convening and supporting disaster-impacted communities to ensure that federal disaster recovery efforts reach all impacted households, including the lowest-income and most marginalized people who are often the hardest-hit by disasters and have the fewest resources to recover.      

Learn more about the DHRC’s policy recommendations here.  

Winter Storm

President Biden on February 20 approved a Major Disaster Declaration for Texas, making FEMA Individual Assistance (IA) available in 77 counties impacted by the recent winter weather. The Major Disaster Declaration was expanded to enable Texas homeowners and renters in 31 additional counties to apply for IA. This assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help survivors recover from the effects of the severe winter storm. See FEMA’s DR-4586-TX page for more information. HUD on February 22 announced that President Biden’s major disaster declaration allows HUD to offer foreclosure relief and other assistance to Texans affected by the severe winter storm.

President Biden approved on February 25 a Major Disaster Declaration for Oklahoma to help individuals affected by the severe winter storms. The declaration makes FEMA’s Individual Assistance (IA) available to affected individuals in 16 counties. Public Assistance (PA) is available on a cost-sharing basis for emergency protective measures statewide. President Biden previously approved emergency declarations for Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas. These declarations authorize FEMA to provide emergency protection measures for mass care and sheltering and direct federal assistance.

Vox reports on how mutual aid groups in Texas have organized to help those in need. Local organizing efforts in cities like Austin, Dallas, and Houston have worked to relocate homeless residents and other at-risk individuals in the face of a lacking government response. Vox also reports that hotel room prices across Texas have skyrocketed amid the crisis. Additionally, FEMA is warning residents to be wary of hotel scams, especially ones that claim FEMA will cover residents’ hotel costs.

At least six people experiencing homelessness died during the devastating winter storm and power outages, and that number could rise. Before and during the storm, advocates drove through Texas’ cities trying to bring unsheltered individuals to available warming centers and emergency shelters.

The Texas Tribune reports that Texans of color, disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and economic fallout, tend to live in neighborhoods with older homes, more vulnerable pipes, and fewer food options – making it more difficult to withstand the winter storm and subsequent power outages. On top of these challenges, some communities were left to endure the cold temperatures with little or no information about what was happening, as information was not translated or targeted to non-English speaking communities.

CityLab reports on the severe winter weather that brought deadly risks for unsheltered individuals, noting that electricity outages put additional strain on homelessness resources. Eric Samuels of the Texas Homeless Network says he wishes that more communities across Texas would take advantage of using hotel rooms to house people.


Hurricanes Laura and Delta

EcoWatch reports that Hurricanes Laura and Delta started a vicious cycle of homelessness for many Southwest Louisiana residents. The region faced an affordable housing crisis before the devastating storms, and after the hurricanes, landlords used loopholes to evict tenants despite the federal eviction moratorium.