Disaster Housing Recovery Updates – March 4, 2019

The following is a review of disaster housing recovery developments since the last edition of Memo to Members and Partners (for the article in the previous Memo, see 2/25).

2018 California Wildfires

Federal Response

Disaster Recovery Centers in Chico and Paradise closed on March 1.

The federal cost-share for the California Wildfires covered in declarations 4382 and 4407 has increased from 75% to 90%. This increase covers all categories of public assistance, hazard mitigation, and other needs assistance. The increase is retroactive to the incident date.

Local Perspectives and Resources

An article in HuffPost shares the continuing housing challenges for survivors of the Camp Fire. FEMA has provided about 220 trailers – not nearly enough for the thousands of displaced people, leaving many to live in over-crowded conditions.

North Valley Community Foundation President and CEO Alexa Benson-Valavanis recently discussed the philanthropic efforts of her organization as well as new partnerships with Sierra Nevada Brewing Company and the Aaron Rodger NorCal Recovery Fund to create the Butte Strong Fund. Housing is a key issue addressed by these funding efforts.

Hurricane Michael


Federal Response

A local news outlet reports that FEMA plans to provide additional temporary housing to Gulf County, where 28 families are still in need.

FEMA provided a list of long-term recovery groups with resources for affected families and residents of the Florida Panhandle.

State Action

A nonprofit board created by the state legislature agreed to use $15 million from the state’s settlement with BP – won after the Deepwater Horizon disaster – for disaster recovery projects in Bay, Franklin, Gulf and Wakulla counties. Each county will be asked to submit a list of projected property-tax losses by county, municipality and school district.

Local Perspectives and Resources

Port St. Joe’s recovery is well under-way, except for a two-square mile community of mostly black and low-income residents north of the railroad tracks near the former St. Joe Paper Company mill, where community members allege FEMA has been moving slower. “I went over to FEMA they sent me to SHIP,” one said. “They always sending you somewhere else. They don’t do the rich people on Reid Avenue like that.”

Hurricane Florence

North Carolina

Federal Response

Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) for Hurricane Florence survivors ends Tuesday, March 12. FEMA reports that of 871 households that have participated in the temporary hotel shelter program, 646 have found longer-term housing and 225 remain in hotels.

State Action

The North Carolina Office of Recovery and Resiliency launched two programs to assist local governments facing financial struggles following Hurricane Florence. These grants and 0% interest loans aim to provide short-term assistance for general and disaster-specific expenses.

Local Perspectives and Resources

Local government and regional leaders of the Eastern NC Disaster Recovery & Resiliency Alliance introduced their top five priorities for the state budget last week, which included “new construction of affordable housing and . . . tax credit projects in disaster declared counties.”

Wilmington area officials have reported that about 1,200 low- to moderate-income housing units and 22 mobile homes were lost or severely damaged by Hurricane Florence, and the number of local children receiving assistance from the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act has risen dramatically. The coordination office plans to use funding to increase the overall number of housing units available in New Hanover County.

2017 Disasters

Federal Response

HUD published a notice in the Federal Register announcing it would respond by March 1 to any CDBG-DR Action Plan amendments that were pending at the start of the government shutdown. HUD will respond to any Action Plans that were outstanding by March 15, 2019. HUD previously published a Federal Register notice on January 9 waiving the timing-review requirement of CDBG-DR action plans and amendments due to the government shutdown.

HUD Secretary Ben Carson told reporters that HUD is still working on the rules regarding the mitigation-specific CDBG-DR funding included in the disaster recovery package passed in February, 2017. He stated those rules should be released in May.

Secretary Carson also announced the approval of an additional $652 million of CDBG-DR funds to support Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. This is the third and final CDBG-DR allocation for Texas recovery efforts.

State Action

Although Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló met with Secretary Carson and former FEMA Administrator Brock Long over the last two weeks, the White House declined his requests to meet directly with President Trump to discuss hurricane recovery efforts on the island.

During an interview on February 22, Governor Rosselló discussed recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, his disappointment with FEMA under the Trump administration, and his hopes that Democratic candidates will emphasize Puerto Rico’s needs during the primary season.

Local Perspectives and Resources

Ariadna Godreau-Aubert, executive director of Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC) partner Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico, published an op-ed in The Hill on February 21 discussing the failures and limitations of Puerto Rico’s CDBG-DR Action Plan. Many vulnerable communities may lose out on crucial financial assistance because they cannot afford to comply with flood-protection standards. The Puerto Rican government can rectify the failures and limitations, Ms. Godreau-Aubert wrote, by minimizing displacement, applying a racial-equity lens, ensuring transparency, and adapting regulations to the local context.

An ABC story examines Hurricane Maria’s many impacts on the island – from long-term effects on children to the loss of employment for adults.

The application process for the Texas Homeowner Reimbursement Program – which reimburses homeowners for out-of-pocket repairs – opened on February 28. The Texas General Land Office (GLO) allocated $100 million in CDBG-DR funds for this program.

The initial report from the Hurricane Harvey Registry, a first-of-its-kind registry of storm survivors, examines the various health impacts from the storm.

During a recent National Governors Association meeting, several governors called on FEMA to re-think disaster recovery efforts and provide additional funding and assistance to states for mitigation and vulnerability planning. Deputy Administrator Pete Gaynor stated the agency is currently “under some stress” due to the frequency and magnitude of recent disasters and encouraged states to develop plans on their own.