Congressional and National Updates
Hurricane Lee made landfall in Canada on September 16 after shifting from a Category 5 hurricane to a post-tropical cyclone. A hurricane watch and tropical storm watch were issued on September 13 for much of the New England coastline, but warnings related to Lee were discontinued on September 17.
Tropical Storm Nigel, which formed in the Atlantic earlier this week, intensified into a Category 1 hurricane on Monday. The storm grew rapidly over the following days and became a major hurricane on Tuesday, but no warnings or watches have been issued.
The push for disaster assistance funding remains messy, even while FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund continues to dwindle. While a Continuing Resolution is expected to include funds destined for FEMA, multiple bills from Republican lawmakers seek to accomplish this objective independently.
U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rick Scott (R-FL) reintroduced the “Disaster Assistance Simplification Act” to prohibit penalizing survivors of natural disasters who apply for, but do not accept, U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loans when HUD awards Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) disaster relief funds.
In a recent story, Marketplace covers the difficulties faced by owners of manufactured homes in recovering after disasters.
State and Local
FEMA has opened disaster recovery centers in those areas hit hardest by Hurricane Idalia.
The Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) announced the launch of FloridaRecovers.org September 18 to provide temporary sheltering assistance to Floridians impacted by Hurricane Idalia. The program is state-run.
Florida submitted a State Action Plan for Disaster Recovery to HUD requesting $910 million in funding. The funds would be allocated through HUD’s Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program, which is supporting long-term recovery, resiliency, and mitigation efforts following Hurricane Ian in 20 counties. HUD has 60 days to review and approve Florida’s plan.
More than 5,000 survivors had been approved for FEMA Individual Assistance as of September 9, while three disaster recovery centers had opened in Lāhainā, Makawao, and Kahului to help those impacted by the fires.
The fire death toll dropped from 115 to 97 after additional DNA analysis was conducted. Authorities have identified 74 of those died.
Housing solutions for the victims of the Maui fires have not been easy to find. The State of Hawaii is exploring a variety of options for providing transitional shelter for displaced households. However, rental housing remains scarce.
During a recent Maui County Council meeting, residents pushed commissioners to institute a ban on real estate transactions in impacted areas to prevent the loss of community residential and commercial options in favor of corporate development.
New recovery centers have opened in Georgia to aid Hurricane Idalia survivors from Cook, Glynn, and Lowndes counties.
The Kentucky Housing Corporation has fielded more than $18 million in applications for housing recovery efforts. Funds to support recovery will be taken from the state’s Rural Housing Trust Fund to rebuild single family homes in areas impacted by catastrophic flooding and tornados. The Ohio River Valley Institute estimated that 9,000 homes in eastern Kentucky were damaged in last year’s severe flooding, while six in 10 families in the flood damaged area have incomes of less than $30,000 a year. The Rural Housing Trust Fund program is a middle-income program.
Maine State Governor Janet Mills declared a state of emergency on September 15 in anticipation of Hurricane Lee. Governor Mills’ declaration was followed by a federal emergency disaster declaration later that evening.
Strong winds associated with Hurricane Lee caused more than 92,000 power outages throughout Maine. By September 16, approximately 94,000 Maine customers were without power, according to PowerOutage.us. One person was killed after their vehicle was struck by a falling tree in Searsport, and another was injured in a similar incident.
A state of emergency was announced in Massachusetts on September 15 by Governor Maura Healey due to Hurricane Lee. The announcement was approved by the Biden administration one day later. Fifty members of the Massachusetts National Guard were activated in anticipation of the hurricane, and an emergency operations center was opened in Boston.
An initial $15 million was made available to farmers who have been adversely affected by extreme weather in 2023 through the Natural Disaster Recovery Program for Agriculture.
FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) have approved $3.8 million in federal support for Mississippi residents one month after a major disaster declaration was announced for severe storms that impacted the state in June. FEMA expects the amount of funds to increase as more people apply.
New York State Governor Kathy Hochul deployed 50 National Guard members to Long Island in preparation for Hurricane Lee’s arrival. Meanwhile, the Town of Southampton declared a state of emergency on September 15.
A year after Hurricane Fiona hit Puerto Rico, FEMA announced its support for a project seeking resilient preparation for Puerto Rico in the face of future atmospheric events. The federal organization approved over $3.6 million for the first phase of the project, which will provide a new sanitary sewer system for 367 homes and separate sanitary sewer discharge from the storm sewer system. Since the hurricane, FEMA has awarded over $646 million in Individual Assistance (IA) grants to survivors, and more than 740,000 households have received disaster assistance funding to repair and rebuild damaged homes.
Some Vermonters affected by the July flooding are still deep in the throes of flood recovery, with some continuing to seek shelter. So far, FEMA has determined that more than 2,900 homes in the state had some type of damage, based on applications and housing inspections, including 530 designated as having major damage and 14 that were destroyed. About 1,280 households have received rental assistance from FEMA, which may provide an indication of how many people cannot currently live in their homes, according to the governor's press secretary. FEMA is bringing in manufactured homes and searching for apartment buildings that can be leased and renovated to accommodate flood victims. The agency says about 225 people are eligible for temporary housing, but half of them have found other housing solutions.
Residents of nine counties included in a federal disaster declaration now have until October 12 to apply for individual assistance, FEMA announced after state officials requested an extension. FEMA Individual Assistance is available to homeowners and renters in nine counties included in the federal government’s major disaster declaration: Caledonia, Chittenden, Lamoille, Orange, Orleans, Rutland, Washington, Windham, and Windsor.
More than $54.7 million in federal assistance has been provided by FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) directly to Vermonters to aid in their recovery from severe storms in July. Addison County was added to the federal disaster declaration for this summer’s severe storms on September 14.
An additional Disaster Recovery Grant of $200,000 for ongoing flood recovery efforts for cultural organizations was awarded on September 19 by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Vermont is utilizing a state program to assist owners of manufactured homes when FEMA does not pay out funds needed by survivors to repair or replace their homes. The agency has not been taking into account the question of whether a unit has been condemned by local or state officials when distributing assistance amounts. The supplemental state program comes in conjunction with another state program to assist in the demolition and removal of damaged manufactured housing units.
The State of Virginia is considering the creation of a state relief fund after flooding impacted the towns of Hurley and Whitewood twice in the past two years. Federal funding was limited by a lack of disaster declarations in both instances.