NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel sent a letter to FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell thanking her for recent changes making disaster assistance easier to access and requesting a meeting on behalf of the NLIHC-led Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC) – a group of over 850 local, state, and national organizations working to ensure that low-income households can access disaster assistance. “FEMA has taken a long-overdue and necessary first step towards building a more equitable federal disaster housing recovery framework,” Diane wrote in the letter. “We share your goal of a disaster recovery framework that is accessible to all, and we hope that the experience and expertise of the DHRC can help assist you and FEMA in reaching that goal.”
The letter comes after FEMA announced major reforms to its Individual Assistance (IA) program in September. For decades, FEMA required homeowners to submit title documents to receive assistance, and the agency refused to accept alternative documentation. This requirement effectively barred low-income homeowners – predominantly households of color – from receiving the FEMA IA for which they were eligible. Residents living in mobile homes and heirship property owners were most severely impacted and wrongfully denied aid to rebuild their homes. Under FEMA’s new policy, these survivors can now self-certify ownership of their homes when they do not have other documentation, overcoming a major hurdle to recovery. FEMA will also allow all survivors to submit a broader array of documents to prove occupancy and ownership of their homes.
A supplemental memo was sent along with the letter outlining potential administrative reforms that the agency could make immediately to improve equity and accessibility of FEMA programs. These reforms include working with HUD to activate the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP) after future disasters, ensuring that individuals and families who were unhoused prior to a disaster are fully eligible for recovery assistance, and prioritizing mitigation grants that serve the communities with the greatest needs.
Read DHRC’s letter to Administrator Criswell at: https://bit.ly/3op20Vf
Read DHRC’s supplemental memo at: https://bit.ly/32GFyuL