Update on Relief Efforts for Hurricanes Harvey and Irma

As the recovery efforts for Hurricane Harvey and Irma begin, CLPHA is committed to advocating for the necessary federal resources and funding to repair and build the homes and communities impacted. We stand ready to work across all sectors to provide both short-term and long-term assistance to those in need, particularly for our impacted members in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In the past two weeks CLPHA has been in contact with senior HUD staff and participated in a Hurricane Housing Recovery working group with national housing organizations and other state and local providers. Our goal is to share information and resources, and coordinate advocacy efforts around housing and disaster relief for Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. We will continue these efforts and share new information and resources with members as they become available.

Below are some recent updates on relief efforts.

On Friday, September 8, President Trump signed into law a $15.25 billion disaster relief bill in response to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The bill combined disaster relief funding with other critical pieces of legislation, including lifting the debt ceiling, extending the National Flood Insurance program, and a Continuing Resolution to keep the government open through December 8, 2017.

Of the $15.25 billion, $7.4 billion is dedicated for FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund, $450 million is for the Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) disaster loan program, and an additional $7.4 billion for CDBG Disaster Relief (CDBG-DR) funds to be allocated to communities impacted by disasters in 2017. The bill also provides broad discretion to HUD Secretary Carson to allocate these funds directly to state and local governments.

Conversations with senior HUD staff reveal that HUD is working closely with field office staff and housing authority leadership to assess property damages and find suitable housing for displaced tenants. The agency’s emergency response will be modeled after post-Hurricane Katrina disaster relief efforts that coordinated FEMA funds to provide emergency housing and case management through HUD. Although estimates of housing needs continue to develop, the Department believes that recent Disaster Relief Funds will cover associated costs. If necessary, HUD can request additional supplemental voucher funding from the OMB under the Tenant Protection Voucher account.

In 2016, HUD published a Disaster Readiness and Preparation Guide for public housing authorities. The guide offers useful strategies for initiating risk assessments and provides resources for coordinating with other disaster relief agencies. In any disaster, public housing authorities should work closely with their field offices to initiate disaster relief efforts with FEMA.

Hurricane Harvey
On September 7, HUD released a Situation Report on Hurricane Harvey. Some highlights include:

  • The Hurricane Harvey impact area includes 42 public housing agencies, with 773 properties containing 199,494 public housing units.
  • The Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes (OLHCHH) advises that CDBG-DR funds be used to provide financial support for the development of an environmental health and housing registry.
  • HUD’s Office of Policy and Research is working with FEMA to facilitate information transfer that will allow HUD to identify the assisted housing residents in FEMA shelters and hotels. This will allow HUD to coordinate with grantees to get those families rehoused.
  • Information on persons with Housing Choice Voucher assistance will be delayed because PHAs need time to assess the habitability of all privately-owned rental properties. PIH will report any relevant information as it is received.

Hurricane Irma
As of September, President Trump has issued major disaster declarations for Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Florida in the wake of Hurricane Irma. As such, HUD will be offering foreclosure relief and other forms of housing and disaster assistance to certain families in affected areas. Relevant to public housing, HUD is:

  • Assisting in re-allocating existing federal resources toward disaster relief – HUD's Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME programs give the State and communities the flexibility to redirect millions of dollars in annual formula funding to address critical needs, including housing and services for disaster victims. HUD is currently contacting State and local officials to explore streamlining the Department's CDBG and HOME programs in order to expedite the repair and replacement of damaged housing.
  • Information on housing providers and HUD programs – The Department will share information with FEMA and the State on housing providers that may have available units in the impacted counties. This includes Public Housing Agencies and Multi-Family owners. The Department will also connect FEMA and the State to subject matter experts to provide information on HUD programs and providers.
  • Offering Section 108 loan guarantee assistance – HUD will offer state and local governments federally guaranteed loans for housing rehabilitation, economic development and repair of public infrastructure.

FEMA has established an online application for those seeking Hurricane Harvey and Irma assistance and is encouraging residents in the impacted areas to apply. As of September 10, FEMA has approved over 218,000 individual assistance applications as well as $164 million in housing assistance.

HHS Secretary Price has declared public health emergencies in Texas, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and South Carolina following Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. In response to these emergencies, the agency has increased flexibility in providing services to and assistance for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries in the affected regions, as well as deployed personnel to help respond to community medical needs. HHS has established resource and information pages for both Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. Additionally, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides a Disaster Distress Helpline that provides crisis counseling for those impacted by disasters.
For questions or further information please contact Nicole Barrett (nbarrett@clpha.org), or Rich Bindell (rbindell@clpha.org).