Disaster Housing Recovery Updates – September 20, 2021

DHRC Updates

NLIHC’s Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC) is a group of over 850 local, state, and national organizations working to secure disaster recovery funding and key reforms to ensure every survivor, including those with the lowest incomes and those most marginalized, receives the assistance they need to fully recover and ensure that their communities can withstand future disasters. Read the DHRC’s full list of priorities here.

To find out more and get involved with the effort to approve disaster recovery funding and pass DHRC-supported reforms, join our Disaster Recovery Working Group that meets weekly on Tuesdays at 3 pm ET. If you haven’t already, become a member of the DHRC!

Take Action! Sign your organization to a letter supporting the bipartisan “Reforming Disaster Recovery Act” and help ensure every disaster survivor receives the assistance they need to fully recover. Read NLIHC’s fact sheet on the Reforming Disaster Recovery Act. Add your organization to a growing list of groups supporting this important bill!

Reporting and Advocacy

Cashauna Hill with the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center and Chrishelle Palay with the Housing Organizing Movement for Equity wrote an op-ed in Salon urging President Biden to prioritize racial justice in post-Ida disaster recovery. The authors urge the president to elevate disaster recovery as a critical component of the administration’s racial equity agenda; reform infrastructure programs to target resources to historically underfunded areas; and require FEMA to ensure low-income communities have access to its housing and infrastructure recovery programs.

Tropical Depression Nicholas

According to the Associated Press, Tropical Depression Nicholas hovered over Louisiana on Wednesday (9/15), drenching the region still reeling from Hurricane Ida and dumping heavy rain on coastal Mississippi, Alabama, and northwest Florida. In Louisiana, the rainfall is complicating the already challenging recovery for homes destroyed by Ida. Thousands are still without power in Louisiana and Texas.

President Biden on September 13 approved an emergency declaration for Louisiana in response to Tropical Storm Nicholas, making FEMA’s Public Assistance (PA) available for all 64 Louisiana parishes. Specifically, FEMA is authorized to provide direct federal assistance and reimbursement for mass care, including evacuation and shelter support, at 75% federal funding.

Hurricane Ida

Federal Updates

Survivors in all 25 Louisiana parishes eligible for Individual Assistance (IA) affected by Hurricane Ida can sign up for temporary, fiber-reinforced sheeting to cover their damaged roofs until permanent repairs are made. Operation Blue Roof, a free program managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in coordination with FEMA, has expanded its mission to the parishes designated for FEMA’s Individual Assistance program.

President Biden approved a major disaster declaration for Pennsylvania, making federal funding available to individuals impacted by Hurricane Ida in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Philadelphia, and York counties. HUD announced on September 15 that disaster assistance is now available for Pennsylvania residents affected by Hurricane Ida in the counties included in President Biden’s major disaster declaration.

State and Local News

The Guardian reports on the destruction Hurricane Ida inflicted on the communities of Pointe-aux-Chenes and Isle de Jean Charles, home to several southeast Louisiana’s Indigenous tribal communities. The region endured Ida’s worst destruction, with over half of Isle de Jean Charles’ housing destroyed by Ida. The hurricane has revived questions for residents about whether to retreat inland or rebuild in the area already experiencing the brunt of the climate crisis. Additionally, tribal leaders are concerned about faltering assistance from the federal government.

Louisiana’s Indigenous communities are among the most vulnerable to storms and sea-level rise as a result of the climate crisis. Most of these coastal tribes, however, lack federal recognition – a critical legal tool that would help them recover from disasters and face the threat of climate change.

Each of the four state-recognized tribes suffered incredible loss from Ida, as did several other tribes not formally recognized, including the Grand Bayou Indian Village. Without federal recognition, recovery from Ida will be much slower. Federal recognition would allow tribes to work directly with the government and open more opportunities for disaster aid. Instead, unrecognized tribes are treated as nonprofits and are unable to access some federal relief programs.

Louisiana’s marginalized communities are facing compounding crises: the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn, Hurricane Ida, and pre-existing disparities. “Housing is a foundational issue for all of these catastrophes,” said Andreanecia Morris of HousingNOLA. “Our failure to address racial bias, gender bias, and poverty bias in housing impedes all of those things.”

The deaths of seven Louisiana nursing home residents who were evacuated to a warehouse during Hurricane Ida have prompted officials to evaluate nursing home evacuation and sheltering storm plans. After Hurricane Katrina was blamed for dozens of nursing home resident deaths, Louisiana reformed its nursing home laws and regulations. Nursing homes are now required to submit annual plans to state and local officials outlining their emergency preparations in detail. After Hurricane Ida, however, significant questions are being raised about whether these evacuation plans are reviewed closely enough.

Just days after Hurricane Ida, tenants at the Saulet Apartments in New Orleans were served with eviction notices and told to move out within five days. The complex claims the tenants must move out due to storm-related damages; however, the residents filed work orders for the same damages months before Hurricane Ida.

Houma Today reports a homeless shelter in Houma that primarily serves individuals who have been incarcerated needs a new roof after sustaining damage from Hurricane Ida. A tarp nailed to the shelter was unable to withstand the heavy rain from Tropical Storm Nicholas. The shelter providers are concerned about what will happen to the current occupants if they need to evacuate, as they face barriers to accessing shelter due to their previous criminal charges.


Federal Updates

President Biden issued on September 12 a major disaster declaration for California due to the Caldor Fire. HUD announced on September 15 federal disaster assistance is available for areas in California affected by the Caldor Fire. Learn more about HUD programs designed to assist disaster survivors here.

During a visit to the West to survey wildfire damage, President Biden spoke about the administration’s response to recent wildfires and discussed how his Build Back Better plan would address the climate crisis. President Biden spoke about the administration’s request for Congress to include $14 billion in disaster aid to a Continuing Resolution package.

State and Local News

The Oregonian reports many people in parts of southern Oregon are facing compounding crises this summer: the wildfire smoke and severely diminished air quality, a pre-existing housing crisis due to last year’s wildfires, a surge of COVID-19, and the severe drought. These overlapping crises are disproportionately impacting people experiencing homelessness and those in the agriculture industry. Last year’s Almeda fire destroyed at least 2,300 homes in the communities of Phoenix and Talent, and an estimated three-quarters of those residences were mobile homes or low-income housing.