President Donald Trump issued a declaration of a major disaster for the state of Texas on August 25, triggering federal aid to areas affected by Hurricane Harvey. Assistance may include grants for temporary housing, home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and businesses recover. The original disaster declaration was amended four times to expand the areas covered. To-date, 47 counties are covered for emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, under the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) public assistance program. Thirty-three counties are eligible to receive hazard mitigation grants. In addition, 33 counties are covered for FEMA individual assistance and debris removal.
A fifth amendment to the original disaster declaration was issued on September 2, following a letter from the president altering the cost-sharing arrangements under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. Instead of a 75% federal cost-share, the amendment authorizes a 90% federal cost-share for debris removal and direct federal assistance and a 100% federal cost-share for emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance. These cost-share provisions apply for 30 days from the start of the disaster declaration, reverting to 90% afterward.
FEMA's Public Assistance (PA) grant program provides federal assistance to government organizations and certain private nonprofit organizations following a presidential disaster declaration to repair or replace disaster-damaged facilities. Hazard mitigation grants provide assistance to state and local governments and certain private nonprofits to prevent or reduce long-term risk to life and property from natural disasters.
The Individuals and Households Program (IHP) may provide for certain housing and other needs. Housing needs covered include temporary housing, lodging-expense reimbursement, and costs not covered by insurance to repair or replace owner-occupied homes. Other needs covered include the cost of childcare, medical and dental treatment, funerals, damage to household items like appliances, vehicle damage, clean-up, and moving and storage.
FEMA has a website devoted to Texas Hurricane Harvey (DR-4332). The designated areas option on the left column of the webpage indicates which counties are currently eligible for the three forms of assistance: individual assistance, two types of public assistance, and hazard mitigation grants. News updates are also available on the left column. FEMA’s home page has a link to resources and information for individuals that includes safety tips, information on how to apply for assistance, emergency numbers, and other resources.
In anticipation of storm damage in Louisiana, a presidential declaration of emergency was declared for that state on August 28. FEMA’s website for Louisiana Tropical Storm Harvey (EM-3382) initially named five parishes covered for public assistance, and seven parishes were added on August 31.
HUD announced it will speed federal disaster assistance to provide support for homeowners and low income renters forced from their homes due to the hurricane. Five specific actions were listed in an August 28 announcement:
- Allow Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME Investment Partnerships funds previously allocated to the state and local governments to be redirected to address critical needs, including housing and services for disaster victims. The aim is to expedite the repair and replacement of damaged homes.
- Grant a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures and forbearance on foreclosures of Federal Housing Administration (FHA)-insured mortgages.
- Provide Section 203(h) FHA insurance to disaster victims who have lost their homes.
- Provide Section 203(k) loans that enable disaster victims to finance the purchase and repairs of homes.
- Offer the state and local governments a Section 108 loan guarantee for housing rehabilitation, economic development, and repair of public infrastructure. Section 108 is a component of the CDBG program. The state or local government pledges up to five years’ worth of its CDBG entitlement amount as collateral for the loan guarantee.
HUD has established a new webpage, Hurricane Harvey Latest News. Key items include:
- Disaster FAQs
- Guidance on Compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
- Fair Housing Disaster Toolkit
- Tips and Tools for Reaching Limited English Proficient Communities in Emergency
There is a new HUD Exchange page devoted to Hurricane Harvey offering a comprehensive set of links for residents and HUD grantees and partners.
HUD’s standard Disaster Resources webpage has links to all relevant HUD program divisions.
HUD’s Office of Housing Counseling has sent updates that encourage all participating housing counseling agencies impacted in Texas and the surrounding region to review the Hurricane Harvey Resource Page for Housing Counselors and the Housing Counseling Disaster Recovery and Emergency Preparedness Toolkit located on HUDExchange. It contains disaster recovery and emergency preparedness resources specifically for housing counseling programs. The toolkit provides immediate access to Disaster Recovery Flyers, the Housing Counseling Disaster Program Guide, and other helpful resources.
Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
An IRS news release (IR-2017-137) warns of fake charity scams in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Because some scams use names that are similar to familiar organizations, IRS recommends consulting its Exempt Organizations Select Check page.
Revenue Procedure 2014-49 (Rev. Proc. 2014-49) from 2014 provides guidance to owners and state housing finance agencies (HFAs) regarding temporary relief from certain requirements that apply to the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program. A key provision allows an owner to provide up to twelve months of emergency housing to households that have been displaced by Hurricane Harvey. Households are eligible for emergency housing in a LIHTC unit if their home was located in an area eligible for FEMA individual assistance.
Unless a property’s written policies and procedures provide a preference for households displaced by a presidentially declared disaster, an owner may not skip over households on a waiting list to provide emergency housing. Existing households cannot be displaced in order to provide emergency housing.
Rev. Proc. 2014-49 relieves an owner and household of providing evidence of income eligibility. All other LIHTC rules apply, however, including LIHTC rent limits. The emergency relief period ends one year after the date the disaster was declared, in this case August 25, 2018. After that date displaced households that are not income-eligible under the LIHTC program cannot occupy a unit assisted under the LIHTC program. To provide emergency housing, an owner must request written approval from the HFA, in this case the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA).
Rev. Proc. 2014-49 also provides program carryover allocations, recapture, and compliance monitoring relief.
USDA Rural Development
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Rural Development (RD) has a Disaster Assistance webpage outlining assistance available in the event of a disaster, including:
- Residents of RD-financed apartments displaced by a disaster may apply for occupancy at other RD-financed apartments and receive special priority consideration for the next available unit.
- Owners of RD-financed multifamily buildings may request temporary measures to reduce the financial burden of addressing damage while waiting for private hazard insurance reimbursement.
- Homeowners with an RD loan or grant may seek a 180-day moratorium on making house payments if they have excessive non-reimbursed expenses associated with property damage or medical expenses, or if they suffer job loss.
- Homeowners with an RD loan or grant whose income has been reduced by more than 10% and will be reduced for the foreseeable future may request a payment assistance package.
U.S. Department of Justice
The U.S. Departments of Justice (DOJ), Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development issued joint guidance to help ensure that recipients of federal financial assistance do not violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by discriminating against individuals and communities on the basis of race, color, or national origin when providing emergency preparedness, response, and recovery services. Although this joint guidance was issued on August 16, 2016, it is still in effect because it is on HUD’s new Hurricane Harvey Latest News webpage, remains on DOJ’s website, and refers to other documents currently on FEMA’s Civil Rights Title VI webpage.
The guidance reminds readers that the Title VI prohibition of discrimination on the basis of national origin requires recipients to ensure that people with limited English proficiency (LEP) have meaningful access to programs, activities, benefits, services, and vital information. The guidance also states that recipients are prohibited from implementing facially-neutral policies and practices that have a disproportionate impact on protected groups.
Small Business Administration (SBA)
The SBA has a Disaster Loan Assistance webpage that includes information for homeowners and renters. A Fact Sheet for Homeowners and Renters indicates that renters and homeowners may borrow up to $40,000 to repair or replace clothing, furniture, cars, or appliances damaged or destroyed in a disaster. Homeowners may apply for up to $200,000 to repair or replace their primary residence to its pre-disaster condition. For applicants unable to obtain credit elsewhere the interest rate will not exceed 4%. For those who can obtain credit elsewhere, the interest rate will not exceed 8%. The SBA offers loans with long-term repayments, in many cases up to 30 years. Terms are determined on a case-by-case basis, based upon each borrower’s ability to repay.
For more NLIHC information on Hurricane Harvey and disaster response efforts, see: http://nlihc.org/issues/disaster