Disaster Housing Recovery Update – May 17, 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 Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Deanne Criswell on May 9. The letter urges Criswell to work with Congress and the Delegation to improve disaster response ahead of future emergencies and address the many challenges 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 it has already provided to Vermonters. 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 on FEMA’s part 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 provide more than $23 million in housing assistance through the Individuals and Households Program (IHP). However, only 11 households in the state ultimately received any 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 implores 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 problems that have been cited by NLIHC’s Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC) in the past as indicating that systemic disaster housing recovery reform is urgently needed.

The Vermont 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,” on April 30. The webinar included a panel discussion exploring key reform priorities, evaluating potential policies, and outlining the path toward a more effective, efficient federal disaster assistance system.

Congress is likely to pass several narrowly tailored disaster reform bills this year, according to a senior staffer involved with the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Homeland Security, though the partisan political environment would likely prevent Congress from passing comprehensive disaster legislation without a natural or climate disaster. In particular, Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee (which has jurisdiction over FEMA), hopes to enact the “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 (CDBG-DR) program.

Two Democratic senators from disaster-stricken states – Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Peter Welch (D-VT) – made pleas 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 program, as part of a nearly $56 billion domestic supplemental spending request he submitted last fall. Meanwhile, FEMA’s disaster relief fund faces a financial shortfall this summer.

State and Local Updates


Maui wildfire survivor group Lahaina Strong and countless other DHRC partner organizations in Hawaii achieved a major victory for families impacted by the wildfire when Governor Josh Green signed SB2919 into law on April 24. The law allows counties to convert short-term rentals into long-term rental units that will 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 has spent the last five months protest fishing tirelessly in front of Kaanapali’s resorts in an effort to ensure dignified long-term housing for displaced families impacted by the Lahaina wildfire. With the signing of the bill, their efforts, dedication, and organization have finally paid off.


At least 24 tornadoes struck West and Central Iowa in late April. 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.


Ohio set a record in 2024 for the most tornadoes recorded during the first three months of a year. As a result, FEMA issued a Major Disaster Declaration for 11 counties in Ohio that were deeply affected 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. No Public Assistance is currently available. Sima Merick has been designated the federal coordinating officer for this disaster. Those affected may apply for assistance here.


Oklahoma is still reeling from multiple tornadoes and associated disasters that struck the state during the final weekend of April. Oklahoma towns saw as many as 27 tornadoes – ranging in strength from EF-3 to EF-4 – as well as flash flooding. The Mvskoke Creek Nation (MCN) Reservation was also impacted by a number of tornados. As a result, FEMA approved a Major Disaster Declaration for three counties – Hughes, Love, and Murray counties – before amending the declaration to include Carter and Okmulgee counties as well. Individual Assistance and Public Assistance are now available to those affected in Hughes, Love, Okmulgee, and Murray counties. In Carter County, only Individual Assistance is available. Statewide FEMA Hazard Mitigation assistance is also available. The state plans to request that additional counties be added to the declaration as damage assessments are completed. Those affected may apply for assistance here.


Nebraska was hit by five major tornadoes, ranging from EF-1 to EF-3 in strength, in late April. Nebraska Governor Jim Pillen announced that at least 450 homes in Omaha had been “totally destroyed” following the tornadoes. The destruction prompted Governor Pillen to declare a state of emergency for Douglas, Lancaster, and Washington counties on April 28. As a result, FEMA issued a Major Disaster Declaration. Residents of Douglas and Washington counties are now eligible for both Individual and Public Assistance. Statewide Hazard Mitigation assistance is also available. Andrew Meyer will serve as the federal coordinating officer for the disaster. Those affected may apply for assistance here.

South Carolina

South Carolina sustained more than $5 million in damage following a hailstorm that devastated Rock Hill. The storm’s intense damage prompted both Democrats and Republicans to come together to urge Governor Henry McMaster to request a Major Disaster Declaration for York County. The Governor sent the request to FEMA on May 7. Impacted families must now wait for a response from FEMA regarding whether and when they can begin their recovery.


More than a third of all Texas counties are covered by disaster declarations due to torrential downpours and major flooding that struck much of the state recently. Some areas of Texas saw two months’ worth of rain in a mere five days. The floods follow a wave of extreme weather, including a tornado that destroyed many homes in Hawley. As a result, Texas has seen a slew of rescues and evacuations. At least 224 people have been rescued from homes and vehicles in Harris County alone. Throughout the state, 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.

Resilience & Mitigation Corner

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

FEMA is currently seeking feedback on the draft “National Resilience Guidance” the agency made public on April 23. FEMA explains that the Guide’s goal is to help stakeholders at all levels understand and carry out their roles related to increasing national resilience. The DHRC will submit comments that urge FEMA to incorporate the “Four Rights” of communities – the rights to choose, stay, have equal treatment, and have a say – into their framework and to make sure equity, inclusion, and accessibility are at the forefront of resilience efforts. Make your voice heard by emailing written comments to [email protected]. Written comments are due by May 23.

Register for HUD’s FFRMS Final Rule Webinar Series

HUD is holding a webinar on its 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, with 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 held on Monday, May 30, from 1:30 to 3:30 pm ET. 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 by Thursday, May 30, at 3 pm ET.

Apply for Swift Current Funds

Three hundred million dollars 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 are required to be insured through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). 

All eligible applicants must submit their fiscal year (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 November 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 ET.

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 ET. The second webinar will be on Tuesday, May 14, from 2:30 to 4 pm ET.