Hurricane Update: Senators Move to Increase Disaster-Related Funding for Housing and Infrastructure

Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) introduced S. 2006 on November 2, a bill to authorize additional funding for public housing capital and operating funds and the Housing Choice Voucher program. Under the bill, the “Disaster Displacement Act of 2017,” the HUD Secretary, upon request from a public housing authority, can provide additional funding for housing authorities in a Presidentially-declared major disaster area, which would include Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In a statement released by Senator Nelson, he noted that “tens of thousands of evacuees in Florida are struggling to find affordable place to live” and the legislation will “help make more affordable housing in the communities that need it the most.”

Additionally, on November 3, 28 Democratic Senators sent a letter to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) making recommendations for a third supplemental bill for disaster recovery following hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, as well as wildfires in several western states. The letter includes requests specifically related to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well a broad spectrum of issues including housing, economic development, transportation and infrastructure, health and human services, education, and labor.

The requests include:

Puerto Rico & the U.S. Virgin Islands

The Administration should provide Puerto Rico with access to sufficient liquidity to make up for the Puerto Rican government’s lost revenues and to enable the island and its instrumentalities to function. The bill should also include specific legislative language on electric grid rebuilding and resilience for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This may include renewable energy resources and modernization of the grid, especially prioritizing technologies that improve resilience for disasters such as microgrids and distributed energy systems.

CDBG-DR

The next bill should include sufficient CDBG-DR funding for long-term recovery and mitigation for future disasters, restoration of infrastructure and housing, and economic revitalization in the most impacted and distressed areas that receive a major disaster declaration in 2017. The Administration should also include additional funding for technical assistance and capacity building in order to help states and local governments align and expend resources effectively.

Housing

The Administration should request sufficient funding to restore or replace federally-assisted housing damaged in the disasters and ensure that displaced HUD-assisted households can locate housing during the recovery. The HUD Secretary should be allowed to authorize public housing agencies (PHAs) in affected disaster areas that have also received a major disaster declaration to transfer funds between their public housing capital, public housing operating, and Section 8 voucher accounts.

Transportation and Infrastructure

The bill should include funding for the restoration of critical infrastructure, including drinking water and sewer systems, as well as funds to address flood and coastal storm damage reduction and repair through the Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works program. Funding for the Federal Highway Administration Emergency Relief program and the Federal Transit Administration Public Transportation Emergency Relief program should also be included to help recover from damage to roads, highways, and public transportation systems in affected areas.