DHRC Partners Win Approval from FEMA on New Documentation of Homeownership for Puerto Rico Disaster Survivors; Senators Call on FEMA to Increase Awareness

NLIHC-led Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC) partners in Puerto Rico won approval from FEMA for alternative documentation to show proof of homeownership for disaster assistance in Puerto Rico for those without legal titles to their homes, a common occurrence on the island. Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Edward Markey (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Robert Casey (D-PA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Kamala Harris (D-CA) sent a letter to FEMA Administrator Brock Long urging him to broadly publicize the newly approved documentation. 

Ayuda Legal Huracán María and other legal aid service providers in Puerto Rico drafted the form and then worked with FEMA’s Office of Chief Counsel to finalize it and get it approved. The document, which more accurately reflects probate estate laws on the island where ownership is often not attached to formal titles, does not require notarization. A press release issued by Ayuda Legal Huracán María provides more details about the new documentation.

A majority of applications for assistance from FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program (IHP) have been denied on the island, leaving hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans without relief.  The senators’ letter asks Administrator Long to clarify if applicants who had previously been denied aid will now be able to reapply for assistance. FEMA has agreed to reassess denials of appeals—but leaves it up to the network of legal service attorneys to contact prospective applicants.

“Currently, FEMA has deemed 333,118 IHP applications ineligible,” the letter states. “As a result, more than 10 months after Hurricane Maria, hundreds of thousands of American citizens in Puerto Rico are still waiting for relief.”

“On behalf of the Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition, I applaud Senators Menendez, Blumenthal, Warren, Markey, Casey, Sanders, Brown, and Harris for their efforts to hold FEMA accountable for its alarming practice of denying basic financial and housing assistance to survivors of Hurricane Maria, despite the clear need,” stated NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel in a press statement from Senator Menendez.

Read the press statement from Senator Menendez at: https://bit.ly/2Ofo3s6

Read the Ayuda Legal Huracán María press statement at: https://bit.ly/2OBs3nU