The following is a review of additional housing recovery developments related to the 2017 and 2018 disasters since the last edition of Memo to Members and Partners (for the article in the previous Memo, see 12/10). NLIHC also posts this information at our On the Home Front blog.
A housing-related FAQ from FEMA provides information on housing options – including emergency shelters, the Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) program, FEMA Rental Assistance, FEMA Direct Housing, and Airbnb Open Homes – available for survivors of the Camp Fire in Butte County. The agency estimates about 2,000 households will need help finding housing. FEMA has begun staging manufactured housing units in Northern California to meet some of the need there but, because FEMA is still looking for sites to install direct housing options, only a few families have been able to move into these units. The FAQ also states that 800 hotels throughout the state are participating in TSA, but only three of those are in Butte County.
FEMA and partners on the state-led Joint Housing Task Force are seeking assistance from the public in identifying potential housing sites in Butte County and surrounding areas for survivors of the Camp wildfire. Owners of commercial trailer sites or RV pads that may be suitable to house wildfire survivors are encouraged to email: FEMA-Housing-Solutions@fema.dhs.gov
FEMA published an FAQ with information on Citizenship Status and Eligibility for Disaster Assistance. Eligibility for the Individuals and Households Program (IHP) and Disaster Unemployment Assistance may be impacted by immigration status. Emergency Assistance (e.g., sheltering), Disaster Legal Services, Crisis Counseling, Disaster Case Management, and food assistance are available regardless of immigration status.
Local Perspectives and Resources
The Sacramento Bee reports that many of the people who died in the Camp wildfire were older or had disabilities. These are some of the most vulnerable populations during a disaster, and the recent fires demonstrate the need for improved coordination and accessibility related to disaster preparedness, relief, and recovery.
Morrison Foerster released an updated version of its Helping Handbook for those affected by the California wildfires. The Helping Handbook provides “up-to-date, practical information for individuals, families, and small businesses on subjects including housing, government benefits, insurance, FEMA assistance, replacement of lost documents, and fraud prevention.”
Recipients of HUD rental assistance who were displaced by Hurricane Michael may be eligible for help from FEMA, including those who were living in HUD-assisted public housing, privately owned apartments that provide rental assistance from HUD, or private homes using Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers. A FEMA press release provides information on the types of assistance available.
The deadline for survivors of Hurricane Michael in Florida to register with FEMA has been extended to Monday, December 17. All impacted residents should register with FEMA. The deadline for Disaster Unemployment Assistance is now December 31.
Some Disaster Recovery Centers (DRC) in Florida have begun to close. Visit floridadiaster.org/info/#drcs for an updated list of locations.
FEMA released recovery updates for each designated county. There are three counties (Bay, Jackson, and Gulf) approved for Transitional Shelter Assistance (TSA) with a total of 744 households currently using TSA. Rental assistance has been approved for 18,963 households across the state. Bay County has the highest number of rental assistance approvals with 13,332. There are six counties (Calhoun, Bay, Jackson, Gulf, Gadsen, and Franklin) approved for Direct Temporary Housing Assistance. FEMA does not report how many households have been approved or have received Direct Temporary Housing Assistance.
State and Local
Governor Rick Scott on December 7 launched two VISIT FLORIDA assistance programs to provide aid to local tourism businesses in counties impacted by Hurricane Michael. VISIT FLORIDA has also developed a marketing campaign to promote tourism in the Panhandle.
Local Perspectives and Resources
Officials in Panama City, FL, shut down the tent city that has housed hundreds of people since Hurricane Michael devastated the city in October. Mayor Greg Brudnicki described Panama City’s tent city as a “potential health crisis” due to the lack of sanitation and clean water as well as reports of violence. According to the Panama City News Herald, the majority of people who remain in the camp are people who were “either chronically homeless people or workers who arrived after the storm and decided to camp rather than pay for lodging.”
Governor Roy Cooper requested federal disaster assistance for 21 counties affected by Hurricane Michael. The governor’s request estimates more than $22 million in damages from the storm.
FEMA released recovery updates for each designated county. There are four counties (Pender, New Hanover, Brunswick, and Jones) approved for Transitional Shelter Assistance (TSA) with a total of 169 households currently using TSA. Rental assistance has not been approved for any households across the state. There are four counties (Pender, New Hanover, Brunswick, and Jones) approved for Direct Temporary Housing Assistance. FEMA has not yet reported the number of households approved for Direct Temporary Housing Assistance. However, the agency reports that 101 temporary housing units have been licensed across the state. Pender County has the highest number of licensed units with 81 units.
Survivors of Hurricane Florence in North Carolina have until Thursday, December 13 to register for assistance from FEMA or a low interest loan from the Small Business Administration.
According to the Washington Post, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster sent a letter to Representative Tom Rice (R-SC) that states the governor is increasing the estimate for Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds from $108 million to $435 million. This increase allows South Carolina’s congressional delegation to request additional funds to help residents recover from Hurricane Florence.
Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) sent a letter to the acting inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security on December 6 requesting an expansion of the IG’s investigation into FEMA’s contracting for the Tu Hogar Renace program in Puerto Rico.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report studying FEMA’s contracting practices during the agency’s response to the 2017 disasters. The GAO found that FEMA was inconsistent in its coordination with states and the information it shared with those states.
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s Disaster Recovery Initiative posted the transcript and PowerPoint slides from the webinar “Partnering with Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster” held on November 30.
The deadline to apply for the Department of Economic Opportunity’s Rebuild Florida grant program, designed to cover out-of-pocket expenses for people trying to rebuild their homes after Hurricane Irma, expires on Sunday, December 23. To register for the program, click here.
The Texas General Land Office announced the results of a regional planning studies survey of citizens, local officials, councils of government and river authorities in communities impacted by Hurricane Harvey. The GLO states that the community identified the top needs as flood control and drainage improvements. Many of the responses also identified the lack of affordable housing as a major concern. Results of the survey will inform a second study to determine “which projects will best address the concerns identified by local input.”
Local Perspectives and Resources
Using data obtained through a FEMA Freedom of Information Act Request, NLIHC state partner and Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC) member Texas Housers analyzed FEMA’s data on ineligibility rates by income from applicants affected by Hurricane Harvey. The analysis revealed that “the denial rate for all homeowner applicants was 26%, but those making less than $15K/year had a denial rate of 46%. As the household’s income climbed, their likelihood of being approved also increased.” Texas Housers found that low-income applicants were “more likely to face denial for assistance because of administrative and logistical issues such as failure to successfully obtain an inspection and prove their identity and occupancy of the home.”
New data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey show that “areas of California’s wine country that were devastated by wildfire now have some of the lowest poverty rates in the U.S.” According to the Los Angeles Times, a factor in this low poverty rate may have been that “homes lost to the 2015 Valley fire forced the poorest residents to leave the Napa area entirely.”