Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
The Washington Post reports FEMA and HUD are collaborating on a new program that will offer subsidized apartments and case management services to help disaster survivors find permanent housing. Social service providers and housing advocates – including NLIHC – have long advocated for the development of such a program. NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel says the initiative, which is expected to launch by March, represents a significant shift in how FEMA provides transitional housing to disaster survivors. “It means that rather than being in hotel or motel rooms, or in small and sometimes unhealthy trailer parks for an extended period of time, people can be housed in apartments, and they can have all of the stability that they need in order to recover,” she explained. “I feel hopeful for the first time in a long time that FEMA will make meaningful changes.”
Government Accountability Office (GAO)
In an analysis of federal disaster-related data, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that most school districts that received key federal disaster recovery grants following presidentially-declared major disasters between 2017 and 2019 had elevated proportions of students from certain socially vulnerable groups. Research shows that some groups – including children who are low-income, minorities, English learners, or living with disabilities – are particularly susceptible to the adverse effects of disasters. School districts serving high proportions of children in these groups may need more recovery assistance. FEMA’s Public Assistance program and the Department of Education’s Immediate Aid to Restart School Operations program may provide such assistance. Read the GAO’s highlights and full report.
Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
Texas Housers explains that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) recent decision to withhold $1.95 billion of Community Development Block Grant-Mitigation (CDBG-MIT) funds that were awarded by the Texas General Land Office (GLO) to local governments was not driven by paperwork or politics but rather by the aim of combatting discrimination. HUD was forced to act because the Texas GLO unlawfully awarded the federal funds in violation of basic civil rights laws, denying more than two million Black and Hispanic Texans equal access to these critical disaster-mitigation funds. HUD’s action comes more than six months after Texas Housers and the Houston Northeast Action Collective and other community leaders filed a civil rights complaint with HUD against the GLO.
HUD allocated over $85 million in Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds and over $186 million in CDBG-MIT funds on January 11. This allocation of funds, announced in notices in the Federal Register, is the last allotment approved by Congress through the “Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act of 2019.” HUD’s delay in allocating CDBG-DR funds was caused in part by the program’s lack of formal authorization, requiring HUD to issue notices and regulations each time funding is approved by Congress. The bipartisan “Reforming Disaster Recovery Act” would permanently authorize the program and enact critical reforms proposed by members of the NLIHC-led Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition to help ensure the CDBG-DR program better serves disaster survivors with the lowest incomes and their communities. Learn more about the Reforming Disaster Recovery Act.
If you are a member of a national organization, please sign our support letter for the Reforming Disaster Recovery Act. If you are represented by a Republican senator, please reach out to them and request that they cosponsor the bill as well.
Renters in Clallam, Skagit, and Whatcom counties and members of the Lummi Nation, the Nooksack Indian Tribe, and the Quileute Tribe whose homes and property were damaged by the November 2021 floods can apply for FEMA Individual Assistance, including temporary housing. The initial rental grant is for a two-month period and can be reviewed for further assistance. The application deadline is March 7, 2022.
Connecticut homeowners and renters impacted by the remnants of Hurricane Ida have until January 28, 2022, to apply for federal disaster assistance. Federal disaster assistance for individuals and families can include money for rental assistance, essential home repairs, personal property losses, and other serious disaster-related needs not covered by insurance.
President Biden approved a major disaster declaration on January 14 for the deadly tornado outbreak that hit Tennessee on December 10-11, 2021. Homeowners and renters in 12 Tennessee counties affected by the tornadoes may now apply for FEMA disaster assistance.
Governor Andy Beshear announced on January 18 that the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund will provide 10% of the amount of federal disaster housing assistance allocated by FEMA to uninsured renters. For example, if FEMA awarded $40,000 to an individual, Kentucky will provide the individual with an additional $4,000. Survivors can apply for federal disaster aid at: https://www.disasterassistance.gov/
The Kentucky Housing Corporation (KHC) has released online tools to help tornado survivors find permanent housing. KHC has reached out to landlords who may have available rental units and created an interactive, mobile-friendly database to help people search for permanent housing. The database includes units in Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee.
The tornadoes and strong storms that swept through Southwest Florida on January 16 severely damaged or destroyed dozens of homes in Lee County. Mobile home parks in Charlotte County were hit especially hard by the tornados and severe storms.
Hundreds of families left homeless in Colorado after the Marshall Fire damaged or destroyed more than 1,000 structures are having difficulty finding new housing due to the shortage of affordable, available housing.