Disaster Housing Recovery Updates – August 31, 2020

As with other disasters, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the NLIHC-led Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition stands ready to support disaster-impacted communities to ensure that federal disaster recovery efforts reach impacted households, including the lowest-income and most marginalized people who are often the hardest hit by disasters and have fewest resources to recover.

Federal Action & National News

Department of Agriculture (USDA)

USDA released a statement on August 24 reminding communities, farmers and ranchers, families and small businesses in the path of Tropical Storm Marco and Hurricane Laura that USDA has disaster assistance programs to help survivors recover. USDA partnered with FEMA to create the Disaster Resource Center. USDA also developed a Disaster Assistance Discovery Tool to help survivors learn which disaster assistance programs are available to them.

Department of Housing and Urban Development

HUD announced on August 25 that it will provide support to homeowners and low-income renters displaced by the California wildfires. HUD can offer foreclosure relief and other assistance to certain families living in Lake, Monterey, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma, and Yolo counties.


FEMA announced on August 27 that Arkansas has been approved for emergency protective measures (Category B) under FEMA’s Public Assistance program to supplement state and local response efforts to Hurricane Laura.

FEMA announced on August 25 that President Trump amended the emergency declarations for Louisiana and Texas to include reimbursement for eligible emergency protective measures (Category B) in areas impacted by Hurricanes Laura and Marco. The Texas counties and Louisiana parishes were previously limited to direct federal assistance and reimbursement for mass care.

FEMA on August 25 approved Arizona’s request for a Fire Management Assistance Grant for the Griffin Fire burning in Gila County.

Governor Gavin Newsom announced on August 22 that the White House approved California’s request for a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration to support the state’s response to the Northern California wildfires.


NLIHC’s Diane Yentel spoke with Marketplace about the resources needed to evacuate safely from disaster zones. The article highlights how the pandemic and subsequent economic fallout are creating additional barriers to evacuating.

Mother Jones reported on the 100-mile stretch from Texas to Louisiana that faced an “unsurvivable” storm surge due to Hurricane Laura. “Many in the path of Hurricane Laura are already reeling from coronavirus, and financial fallout, and were struggling mightily to avoid homelessness even before coronavirus and this disaster,” said NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel.

The Union of Concerned Scientists discusses the inequities of evacuating, highlighting that both evacuating to safety and sheltering in place require resources. Data indicate that for many people, decisions about whether and how to evacuate are heavily influenced by long-standing racial and socioeconomic inequities.

Hurricane Laura

Houston Public Media reported that while the city of Galveston was under a mandatory evacuation order due to Hurricane Laura, some people, including low-income seniors and people experiencing homelessness, were forced to weather the storm.

The Beaumont Enterprise reported on evacuations that took place in Port Arthur ahead of Hurricane Laura. After the coronavirus-related economic fallout, some residents did not have the resources to evacuate.

As Hurricane Laura loomed, some Houston residents are still struggling to rebuild from Hurricane Harvey. Some residents have endured challenging, often hazardous living conditions while waiting months, and even years for disaster assistance from the city. The State of Texas and City of Houston have been fighting over how to manage the rebuilding effort. “The government is bickering over funding as far as who it belongs to, but it really belongs to the residents, and the residents are still here waiting with hands empty,” said Julia Orduña of Texas Housers.

Iowa Derecho

Dozens of families were left without shelter after being given only two days’ notice to vacate their apartment complex in Cedar Rapids for storm damage repairs. Many of the residents do not have the resources to move and are non-English speakers. The number of people experiencing homelessness is estimated to have doubled due to the Iowa derecho.

The Washington Post reports that the pandemic has complicated the disaster crisis response. Many Iowans left homeless due to the derecho have been reluctant to go to traditional shelters for fear of contracting the coronavirus and have been camping in tents or staying in damaged homes.

Hundreds of refugee families in eastern Iowa are homeless after this month’s derecho. The Refugee Alliance of Central Iowa says there are approximately 250 people displaced by the derecho.

KCRG reported on August 19 that residents at a HUD-subsidized apartment building in Cedar Rapids were among those still without power after the devastating derecho. The residents at the Robert E. Schorg Manor are mostly seniors and people with disabilities.