Additional Disaster Housing Recovery Updates - March 16, 2020

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 3/09).

Federal Action & National News

FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor spoke to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on March 11 in a hearing on FEMA’s priorities for 2020 and beyond. The hearing covered a wide variety of topics, from flood insurance reform to FEMA staffing levels. 

Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA), a senior member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, introduced the “FEMA Disaster Preparedness Improvement Act” (H.R.6071) to increase FEMA support for disaster preparedness and emergency response in California and other states. Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA) is the bill’s original cosponsor.

Tennessee Tornadoes

The potential impacts of displacement and gentrification were already a concern for some Tennessee communities, and those impacts could now be exacerbated as the communities deal with storm damages.

Real estate speculators hoping to cash-in on a Nashville Opportunity Zone were quick to move into tornado-damaged neighborhoods. The speculators offered cash to buy damaged homes, reaching disaster-affected households even before Disaster Recovery Centers could be set up.

Midwest Flooding

Nebraska officials provided updates on ongoing recovery efforts close to one year after damaging floods ravaged parts of the state. Providing access to affordable housing is a “top priority” in their recovery efforts as they continue to work on their long-term disaster recovery plan.

Nebraska officials are attempting to stop predatory landlord practices after last year’s flooding and to undertake long-term housing recovery.

Puerto Rico Earthquakes and Hurricane Maria

The government of Puerto Rico, the Central Office for Reconstruction, Recovery and Resiliency (COR3) and FEMA have partnered to open a Joint Field Office in Ponce. The office will serve as a central point of coordination and decision-making related to recovery for earthquake-impacted areas. The office’s priorities will be to receive and effectively deploy all federal assistance the island is eligible for under the law.

A Hurricane Maria memorial, honoring the victims of the hurricane, is being developed in Battery Park City, NY. Designs can be viewed online.

Tropical Storm Imelda & Hurricane Harvey


The State of Texas has appealed FEMA’s denial of the state’s request for a major disaster declaration to release public assistance related to Tropical Storm Imelda. The governor initially requested a Presidential Disaster Declaration for Individual Assistance for six Texas counties in October 2019. Although that request was approved, a subsequent request for public assistance, submitted by Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) Chief Nim Kidd in December of 2019, was denied. 

Hurricanes Matthew and Florence

North Carolina

Rebuild North Carolina is seeking feedback on the draft state action plan that would spend $542 million in disaster recovery funding related to storm damage from Hurricane Florence. The state can begin using the funds to implement Hurricane Florence recovery programs following the public comment period and subsequent approval of the action plan by HUD.  

Advocates in North Carolina are arguing there is more to disaster recovery efforts than housing and jobs. Though those are vital, they say funding is also needed in the state’s recovery action plan for mental health and community rebuilding efforts.


Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced the “Fairness in Disaster Relief Act,” which would authorize the president to reimburse local governments for qualified interest payments. The legislation is a companion to the House bill Representative Neil Dunn (R-FL) introduced in November. The bill is intended to reduce the cost burdens experienced by local jurisdictions due to disaster recovery efforts.

Other Disasters

Hurricane Irma: The U.S. Virgin Islands Office of Disaster Recovery (ODR), in collaboration with the Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority (VIHFA) and WTJX-TV Channel 12 (WTJX), has announced the launch of a new television program to provide the public with the most up-to-date information on the territory’s progress on recovery. “Recovery in Focus” aims to provide viewers with the most recent developments in the Office of Disaster Recovery’s five priority areas: hospitals, schools, roads, housing and power, as well as other critical projects that impact the daily lives of residents.

Texas 2019 Flooding: The City of San Marcos has declared affordable housing, public services, and public facilities as key priorities for Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding in response to the 2019 flooding.