The following is a review of additional disaster housing recovery developments since the last edition of Memo to Members and Partners (for the article in the previous Memo, see 02/18).
Federal Action & National News
During a hearing on President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2021 budget proposal, House Democrats criticized the acting chief of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for the administration’s delayed release of recovery funding approved by Congress for Puerto Rico. Specifically, House Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman David Price (D-NC) asked about testimony provided by HUD that the OMB had curtailed HUD’s ability to request a recovery-funding release.
Senator Doug Jones (D-LA) introduced S. 3285, the “Hazard Eligibility and Local Projects (HELP) Act,” which would expedite the initiation of certain natural disaster hazard mitigation and community safety projects while additional grant applications are being processed. The bill is companion legislation to a House version introduced by Representative Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX) and passed by the chamber in June, 2019.
Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE) and Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) introduced legislation designed to accelerate flood disaster recovery by allowing local entities, such as Nebraska's natural resource districts, to assist the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with infrastructure repairs.
Coastal cities from Boston to San Francisco are starting to assess the risk they face from rising sea levels. San Francisco officials estimate the city would experience billions of dollars in damage if preventative measures are not taken.
A recent study found that smoke from wildfires can affect immune systems up to 12 years after exposure, prompting a new investigation into the impact of wildfires on the health of children.
A National Weather Service flood outlook report predicts an above-normal risk of flooding in Nebraska and Iowa this spring. Communities hope 2020 is not a repeat of last year’s historically destructive flooding.
Major flooding damaged hundreds of homes in Mississippi last week, and record-breaking water levels are expected to continue rising, according to weather forecasts.
Puerto Rico Earthquakes
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) was joined by Representatives Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) on a two day trip to Puerto Rico to ensure “Puerto Ricans get the help they need and to show solidarity” in the wake of the island’s recent earthquakes.
Puerto Rico Housing Department Secretary Luis Carlos Fernández Trinchet stated that Puerto Rico has received unequal disaster-relief restrictions from the federal government compared to other U.S jurisdictions. Federal funding agreements for the Commonwealth are paired with “stricter terms and conditions” than others.
FEMA approved crisis counseling assistance for six municipalities in Puerto Rico. Guánica, Guayanilla, Peñuelas, Ponce, Utuado and Yauco residents are now able to access supportive services during the disaster recovery process.
Tropical Storm Imelda & Hurricane Harvey
Dissatisfied homeowners developed a Forgotten Survivors Caucus in response to the slow distribution of federal disaster-relief funding after Hurricane Harvey. The Caucus aims to provide emotional support and empower lower- and moderate-income survivors to advocate for their needs.
The City of Houston has adopted a new holistic resilience strategy to mitigate the future effects of natural disasters in the area. The city aims to secure $50 billion for the related mitigation projects by 2040.
A $4.6 million drainage project has begun in Hidalgo County, TX, to reduce flooding and improve drainage capabilities in 12 colonias.
Hurricane Matthew and Hurricane Florence
North Carolina recovery officials are instituting higher standards for homes flooded after 2016’s Hurricane Michael. Seventy-five percent of the homes whose owners applied for federal assistance after the storm were not in federally designated flood zones.
As California utility PG&E continues through bankruptcy proceedings, survivors of wildfires caused by PG&E equipment failures are challenging a $13.5 billion court-approved settlement, saying that the tens of thousands of people who lost their homes deserve larger payments.
Bay County FL’s Disaster Case Management Program is helping hundreds of people access assistance. The main concern is the lack of affordable housing for renters; the program is developing personalized recovery plans to help connect disaster survivors with resources.
Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta Chairman Raphael Bostic visited Panama City, FL, to learn about the city’s recovery efforts. The City is confronting issues related to clearing titles, insurance, getting loans to those in need, economic and workforce development, and the lack of affordable housing, Chairman Bostic said.