Disaster Housing Recovery Update – April 26, 2024

The Vermont Congressional Delegation, including Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Senator Peter Welch (D-VT), and Representative Becca Balint (VT-AL), sent a letter to the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Deanne Criswell. The letter urged Criswell to work with Congress and the Delegation to improve disaster response ahead of future emergencies and address the multiple issues Vermonters have faced in accessing FEMA Individual Assistance (IA) after the devastating flooding of July 2023. 

In the letter, the Delegation thanks FEMA for the help they have provided to Vermonters thus far. However, the letter also draws attention to FEMA’s inadequate direct housing assistance, unclear application process, and insufficient technical assistance for impacted Vermonters seeking aid. The letter highlights multiple cases of failure to communicate not only with impacted Vermonters, but also the Delegation itself.

According to the letter, following the flooding, FEMA worked in coordination with Vermont state officials to ultimately provide more than $23 million in housing assistance through the Individuals and Households Program (IHP). However, just 11 households in the state ultimately received Direct Housing Assistance.

The letter asks FEMA to answer a variety of questions related to disaster case management, the Direct Housing Assistance program and IA determinations. The Delegation implored FEMA to answer these questions and host a staff briefing by May 29, 2024. 

Many, if not all, of the challenges raised in the letter are ones the Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC) has reckoned with before and has been advocating for systemic reform for across disasters and spanning many years. The Delegation now awaits FEMA’s reply.

Congressional and National Updates

The Bipartisan Policy Center held a webinar on disaster reform, “Finding Focus: A Look at Disaster Policy Priorities and Proposals”. The panel discussion explored key reform priorities, evaluated potential policies, and outlined the path toward a more effective, efficient federal disaster assistance system.

Prospects are good for Congress passing disaster reform bills this year that are narrowly tailored, according to a senior staffer on the Senate Homeland Security Committee. He explained the partisan political environment in Congress would likely prevent Congress from passing comprehensive disaster legislation without a natural or climate disaster. Senator Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee with jurisdiction over FEMA, hopes to enact into law ⁠"Disaster Simplification Act" this year. Peters also supports passage of the “⁠Reforming Disaster Recovery Act”, which would permanently authorize the Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Reform program.

Two Democratic senators from disaster-stricken states – Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Peter Welch (D-VT) – made a plea in floor speeches for passing a new round of long-delayed disaster relief. President Biden had requested $9 billion for the government's main disaster relief fund, as well as $2.8 billion for HUD’s CDBG-DR, as part of a nearly $56 billion domestic supplemental spending request he submitted last fall. FEMA’s disaster relief fund, meanwhile, is facing a financial shortfall this summer.

State and Local Updates


Oklahoma is still reeling from the multiple tornadoes and disasters it experienced the last weekend of April. Oklahoma towns saw as many as 27 tornadoes ranging from EF-3 to EF-4 tornadoes and flash flooding. The Mvskoke Creek Nation (MCN) Reservation also saw its fair share of tornados. As a result, FEMA approved a Major Disaster Declaration for five counties- Hughes, Love, and Murray counties. The declaration was then amended to also include Carter and Okmulgee counties. This means that Individual Assistance and Public Assistance are available to those effected in Hughes, Love, Okmulgee, and Murray counties. In Carter county only Individual Assistance is available. Statewide, FEMA Hazard Mitigation assistance is also available. Apply here. The state plans on requesting that additional counties be added to the declaration as damage assessments are completed.


Ohio set a new record for the most tornadoes in the first three months of a year in 2024. As a result, FEMA issued a Major Disaster Declaration for eleven counties in Ohio that were deeply effected by the tornados- Auglaize, Crawford, Darke, Delaware, Hancock, Licking, Logan, Mercer, Miami, Richland and Union counties. Individual Assistance is available to families affected by the tornadoes and Hazard Mitigation funding is available statewide. There isn’t any Public Assistance available as of right now. Apply here. Sima Merick has been designated the Federal Coordinating Officer for this disaster.


Nebraska was hit by five major tornadoes from EF-1 twisters to EF-3 tornados. Nebraska Governor Jim Pillen announced at least 450 homes were “totally destroyed” in Omaha following the twisters. This prompted him to declare a state of emergency for Douglas, Lancaster and Washington counties on April 28. As a result, FEMA issued a Major Disaster Declaration. Douglas and Washington counties are now eligible for both Individual and Public Assistance. Statewide, Hazard Mitigation assistance is available. Apply here. Andrew Meyer will serve as the Federal Coordinating Officer for this disaster.


At least 24 tornadoes struck West and Central Iowa. The tornadoes in Pottawattamie County alone completely destroyed 40 to 50 homes.  Milden, a town of only 600 people saw 120 homes damaged. As a result, Governor Kim Reynolds signed an executive order declaring a disaster emergency.


More than a third of all Texas counties are in a disaster declaration due to torrential downpours and major flooding throughout most of the state. Some areas of Texas saw two months’ worth of rain in a mere five days. These floods come on the tails of a wave of extreme weather including a tornado that destroyed many homes in Hawley. As a result, Texas saw a slew of rescues and evacuations. At least 224 people have been rescued from homes and vehicles in Harris County alone. Throughout Texas, more than 400 people were rescued from their homes, rooftops, and roads. Around 700 houses were evacuated in Polk County, near Houston, due to the flooding. Thousands of people have been displaced.

South Carolina

South Carolina saw more than $5 million dollars of damage from a hailstorm that devastated Rock Hill. The storm’s intense damage prompted both Democrats and Republicans to come together across party lines to urge Governor McMaster to request a Major Disaster Declaration for York County. The Governor sent the request to FEMA on May 7th and impacted families now wait to see if and when they can begin their recovery.


Maui wildfire survivor group Lahaina Strong and countless other DHRC partner organizations in Hawaii achieved a major victory for families impacted by the wildfire. Governor Josh Green signed SB2919 into law on Wednesday, April 24th which allows counties to convert short-term rentals into long-term rental units that could more easily house families displaced by the Maui wildfires. “I think we’ve made our catch,” said Lahaina Strong member Paele Kiakona, who along with other Lahaina Strong members have spent the last five months tirelessly protest fishing in front of Kaanapali’s resorts in an effort to get dignified long-term housing for displaced families impacted by the Lahaina wildfire. Finally, their efforts, dedication, and organization have paid off.

Resilience & Mitigation Corner

Submit Comments on FEMA’s new “National Resilience Guidance” Draft

FEMA is currently seeking feedback on the draft “National Resilience Guidance” they made public on April 23rd. FEMA explains that the Guide’s goal is to help stakeholders at all levels understand and step into their roles related to increasing national resilience. The DHRC will be submitting comments that urge FEMA to incorporate the “Four Rights” of communities - the right to choose, stay, equal treatment, and have a say – into their framework and overall make sure equity, inclusion, and accessibility are always at the forefront of resilience efforts.

Make your voice heard by emailing written comments to [email protected]. Written comments are due May 23rd.

Register for HUD’s FFRMS Final Rule Webinar Series

HUD is holding a webinar on their newly published Federal Flood Risk Management Standard (FFRMS) Final Rule, which modifies HUD’s floodplain management regulations. The webinar will be split into two parts- one focusing on Part 55 of the rule and the other highlighting Part 200: Minimum Property Standards. Part 55 of the rule includes HUD’s FFRMS approach, limitations on HUD assistance in floodplains, exceptions to the Rule, and the eight-step decision-making process.

The webinar will be on Monday, May 30 from 1:30 - 3:30 pm EST. Register today!

Mitigation Loans Available through the Safeguarding Tomorrow Revolving Loan Fund

FEMA announced the second funding opportunity for the Safeguarding Tomorrow Revolving Loan Fund grant program to make communities safer from natural hazards. The loan program has $150 million to distribute to impacted communities. Funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, this program provides capitalization grants to eligible applicants nationwide. Applicants then offer low-interest loans directly to local communities to foster greater community resilience and reduce disaster impacts.

The Safeguarding Tomorrow funding notice is available on Grants.gov. Eligible entities must apply for funding using the Non-Disaster Grants Management System on the FEMA website. Applications are due Thursday, May 30 at 3 pm EST.

Apply for Swift Current Funds

$300 million in Flood Mitigation Assistance Swift Current (Swift Current) funding is available to help homeowners across the nation become more resilient to flooding. Swift Current funding is available after a major disaster declaration following a flood-related disaster event and is part of the Flood Mitigation Assistance program. It is allocated on a year-by-year basis. This is the second time that FEMA is using resources from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for Swift Current. To be eligible, homeowners have to have insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). 

All eligible applicants must submit their FY 2023 Swift Current grant applications to FEMA via the Mitigation eGrants webpage. Upon Swift Current activation, FEMA will provide the application deadline to the applicant. The application period opened on Nov. 15, 2023, and the last eligible disaster declaration date is May 31, 2024. Full details are available on Grants.gov.

National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program Funding Opportunity

FEMA posted funding notices for two National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program grants for more than $3 million. The application period opened on May 1, and the funding notices can be found on Grants.gov. Eligible applicants must apply for funding through the FEMA Grants Outcomes webpage, the agency’s grants management system. Submit applications in FEMA Grants Outcome Portal no later than Friday, June 14 at 5 pm EST.

FEMA is holding webinars to answer questions, discuss funding opportunities, and more. Register for the webinars on the grants workshop webpage. The first webinar will be on Thursday, May 2 from 2:30 to 4 pm EST. The second webinar is on Tuesday, May 14 from 2:30 to 4 pm EST.