FEMA Releases After-Action Report on its Response to the 2017 Hurricane Season

FEMA released on July 12 its “2017 Hurricane Season FEMA After-Action Report” examining its response to the 2017 hurricanes, including Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. While the report acknowledges many shortfalls in FEMA’s response - from personnel shortages, the lack of supplies, and inadequate preparedness - it provides no analysis of FEMA’s failure to address the longer-term housing needs of survivors. Moreover, many of the policy recommendations included in the report may result in FEMA repeating these failures in the future.

The report acknowledges that FEMA’s Transitional Sheltering Program (TSA) hotel program is not meant to support the long-term housing needs of survivors, but it fails to discuss the agency’s decision to not activate proven longer-term housing solutions, like the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP), despite requests from the governor of Puerto Rico, dozens of members of Congress, disaster survivors, and homelessness and housing advocates. Without DHAP, thousands of low income survivors have had no choice but to double or triple up with other families, return to uninhabitable homes, sleep in cars, or pay more than half of their incomes on rent, putting them at risk of evictions and, in worst cases, homelessness. The NLIHC-led Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition of more than 700 national, state, and local organizations strongly supports DHAP and urges Congress to enact legislation to direct FEMA to immediately activate the program.

The primary recommendation in the report is to shift responsibility for the longer-term housing needs of disaster survivors from the federal government to state and local governments, a recommendation made previously by FEMA Administrator Brock Long. FEMA’s experiment with this approach after the 2017 disasters, however, exhibited serious shortcomings. State-administered programs experienced significant delays and failed to scale up to meet the needs of survivors, due in large part to the states’ lack of capacity, staffing, and expertise. Fewer than 350 households were served through state-administered programs in Texas and Florida combined, and the state-administered programs are unable to reach households displaced across state boundaries. Thousands of Puerto Rican families displaced after Hurricane Maria to nearly 40 states on the U.S. mainland were left without the help they need.

Read the full report at: https://bit.ly/2uMrEWB