Massachusetts Senators Elizabeth Warren (D) and Edward Markey (D) sent a letter on June 21 to FEMA Administrator Brock Long admonishing him for not standing up the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP) for Hurricane Maria survivors. The entire Massachusetts congressional delegation also sent a letter on June 13 to Mr. Long calling for the implementation of DHAP.
Both letters come as FEMA’s Transitional Shelter Assistance (TSA) program - which provides hotel accommodations for survivors – is set to expire on June 30. FEMA has the option to enter into an interagency agreement with HUD to provide safe, decent, and affordable rental homes for disaster survivors through DHAP.
The letter from Ms. Warren and Mr. Markey counters the reasons offered by FEMA for not working with HUD to set up DHAP. “Further review of FEMA's policies and the facts on the ground both in Puerto Rico and in Massachusetts,” the senators write, “has revealed [FEMA’s] assurances to be empty and misleading - providing further evidence that FEMA and the Administration have turned their back on the victims of Hurricane Maria.”
The senators contend that FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program (IHP) lacks many services included in DHAP for helping survivors get back on their feet. Through DHAP, individuals work with HUD professionals at public housing agencies (PHAs), who understand the local housing market and are able to directly coordinate housing payments. IHP simply provides money to eligible evacuees without helping them secure affordable housing. DHAP would also allow evacuees from Puerto Rico to secure temporary housing in the continental U.S., while IHP provides housing assistance only on the island.
The senators also expressed concern that FEMA is systematically denying assistance to otherwise eligible residents in Puerto Rico due issues with ownership titles. Nearly 60% of requests for FEMA assistance in Puerto Rico were denied, while the denial rate in Texas after Hurricane Harvey is about 31%.
The senators argue that the provision of stable housing through the Housing Choice Voucher program and DHAP is the most cost-effective way to keep families from experiencing homelessness.
Read Senators Warren and Markey’s letter at: https://bit.ly/2lr5epL
Read the Massachusetts congressional delegation letter at: https://bit.ly/2MJT1Jc
Read NLIHC’s overview of the Disaster Housing Assistance Program at: https://bit.ly/2LJdAot