House Subcommittee Discusses Proposal to Authorize Disaster Housing Recovery Grant Program

The House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing on “The Administration of Disaster Recovery Funds in the Wake of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria” on March 26. The hearing focused on the Community Development Block Grant–Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program and a draft proposal that would permanently authorize the program – which is currently administered on an appropriation-by-appropriation basis through the Federal Register. Both witnesses and members of the subcommittee expressed support for permanent authorization while discussing issues experienced related to the recovery process for the 2017 hurricanes. NLIHC supports the authorization proposal and submitted a statement for the record.

Subcommittee Chair Al Green (D-TX) stated that the proposal to authorize the program would create a reliable program and stop the current cycle of re-invention. Representative Ann Wagner (R-MO), who partnered with Chair Green on the bill, said that this federal funding should be spent on those most in need. Full Committee Chair Maxine Waters (D-CA) expressed her concern that CDBG-DR funding for 2017 disasters has not yet reached survivors and stated the need for the program to be fair, transparent and consistent. She noted the importance of recovery funding for long-term community vitality: “When the government does not prioritize the rebuilding of affordable housing, it pushes out low-income residents that once lived in those areas, which can deepen segregation in our neighborhoods.”

During their opening remarks, witnesses all expressed support for authorizing and standardizing the CDBG-DR program in a way that maintains program flexibility and decreases delays. Jeremy Kirkland, counsel to the HUD inspector general recommended codifying the program and creating model housing programs that grantees could use to quickly begin the recovery process. Marion Mollegen-McFadden, senior vice president at Enterprise Community Partners, said HUD needs additional staff dedicated to disaster recovery efforts.

Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) addressed the inequitable distribution of disaster recovery funds and the obligation of HUD and grantees to affirmatively further fair housing by actively deconstructing racial segregation and promoting accessible housing. Ms. Mollegen-McFadden said the CDBG-DR program offers communities an opportunity to revisit equitability and fair housing issues and urged HUD to work with grantees to do so. She also suggested that staff working on disaster recovery at HUD work more closely with HUD homelessness personnel as well as local Continuum of Care (CoC) providers. People experiencing homelessness prior to disasters are often not eligible for disaster assistance, despite the devastating impact of disasters on their lives.

Members of the committee asked Mr. Kirkland and Puerto Rico Secretary of Housing Fernando Gil Enseñat specifically about the recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. Mr. Kirkland confirmed that the HUD inspector general is currently investigating whether the Trump administration has interfered with disaster recovery efforts in Puerto Rico.

Read NLIHC’s statement for the record at:

Learn more about the hearing including a recording of the hearing at: