DHRC Hosts Webinar on FEMA’s Recent Disaster Recovery Reforms

NLIHC and its Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC) hosted a national DHRC webinar on the disaster recovery reforms announced by FEMA in an Interim Final Rule (IFR) on January 19. The discussion, which took place on January 30, was led by Noah Patton, manager of disaster recovery at NLIHC, and included five additional panelists from other national advocacy and legal organizations.

Hannah Perls, senior staff attorney at the Harvard Environmental & Energy Law Program (EELP), presented an overview and gave background information about the reforms. She acknowledged the significance of responses to the request for information from June 2021 and discussed the substantive and procedural legal authority relied upon by FEMA in making the rule change. Maddie Sloan, director of the disaster recovery and fair housing project at Texas Appleseed, discussed the rule’s changes to Home Repair Assistance and its treatment of insurance proceeds that broaden eligibility requirements for applicants. Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies Co-Executive Directors Shaylin Sluzalis and Germán Parodi discussed the accessibility-related changes that are newly inclusive of disability caused by disaster, as well as limitations. Alessandra Jerolleman, director of research at the Center on Environment, Land, and Law at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, discussed “new” forms of Other Needs Assistance, including Displacement Assistance and Serious Needs Assistance. Finally, Noah Patton surveyed application-related changes, including changes relating to late applications and appeals.

The subsequent discussions focused on concerns over implementation and accountability. Language access, subsistence use, and personnel training emerged as potential issues. Additionally, the relevance of the ruling for wildfire events and uninsured survivors was called into question. The webinar concluded with calls to action and a discussion of best practices going forward.

NLIHC will produce material to assist organizations in responding to the IFR and encourages others to submit their responses to FEMA before the deadline on July 22.