May 16, 2018

Enterprise Urges Congress to Strengthen and Permanently Authorize the CDBG-DR Program

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Enterprise looks forward to its Vice President for Public Policy Marion McFadden testifying before the House Financial Services Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee tomorrow morning in a hearing “Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery Program – Stakeholder Perspectives.”

Following major disasters, Enterprise has invested in disaster recovery work, because low- and moderate-income households and communities are most likely to be harmed and tend to be the last to recover. We work to ensure that people who need help the most, are able to get back on their feet faster.

Enterprise’s policy recommendations are informed by our work with grantees and communities and are aimed to get CDBG-DR resources into communities and on the ground more quickly.

To strengthen the CDBG-DR Program, Enterprise recommends that Congress:

  • Create a set-aside for capacity building and technical assistance for all CDBG-DR appropriations.
  • Require HUD to allocate a portion of assistance within 60 days and expand the remaining balance in a longer but specified time frame.
  • Direct HUD to design pre-approved model programs and systems that grantees can take off the shelf and implement wholesale.
  • Ensure that grant funds reach those who need them the most. Direct HUD and grantees to implement mitigation standards.
  • Expand resources for HUD’s administration of disaster recovery.
  • Ensure that disaster recovery funding reaches all who need help.

CDBG-DR is a necessary resource for urban, suburban, and rural communities after disasters.

CDBG-DR has become a critically important resource for urban, suburban, and rural communities recovering from natural disasters, including hurricanes, coastal and riverine flooding, tornadoes, wildfires, and mudslides. Last year, natural disasters caused a record-breaking $306 billion in damages in the United States, including $125 billion from Hurricane Harvey, $90 billion from Hurricane Maria, and $50 billion from Hurricane Irma. These disasters damaged and destroyed homes and infrastructure and uprooted communities, and the reality is that communities must be expect and be prepared for similarly severe hurricanes, floods, and fires in coming years.

Following major disasters, CDBG-DR funds help cover the unmet need for property owners when other resources like insurance proceeds, FEMA grants, and SBA homeowner loans fall short of the full cost of recovering. It pays for repairs and rebuilding of apartment buildings, helps small businesses cover uninsured losses, and can be used to repair damaged infrastructure and reopen hospitals and schools. CDBG-DR is flexible and can be used as leverage for other public funds and private resources. It also gives states and communities control over how to design their rebuilding programs—while some states may choose to focus on homeowner rehab, other states may want to stand up buyback programs.

Mitigation is an essential part of federal investments in disaster recovery.

Hazard mitigation and building for future disasters is essential in the recovery process so that federal disaster recovery dollars do not put people back in harm’s way. A FEMA-endorse study by the National Institute of Building Science found that taxpayers save an average of $6 in future disaster recovery costs for every $1 spent on hazard mitigation.

Enterprise applauds Congress for investing in making communities safer and stronger by appropriating billions for mitigation in the most recent tranche of CDBG-DR funding, and we are pleased that HUD set meaningful resilient rebuilding and hazard mitigation standards in Federal Register notice 83 FR 5844. We recommend that Congress codify these standards for both CDBG-DR and non-disaster CDBG funds.

Congress needs to strengthen and permanently authorize CDBG-DR.

Enterprise recommends that Congress permanently authorize the CDBG-DR Program to allow HUD to write regulations and develop model programs, policies, and systems that grantees could adopt to shorten the time it takes communities and households to rebuild and recover. Under current policy, HUD only receives disaster recovery funding when Congress passes supplemental appropriations for CDBG-DR, but in recently years, Congress appropriated CDBG-DR funds for disasters occurring in 2010, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016, and 2017.

After each appropriation, there is a delay in the flow of funds, because HUD must write a new set of waivers and alternative requirements to guide state and local grantees in addition to assessing uninsured damage and unmet needs. Before recovery projects can begin, CDBG-DR grantees then need to learn the new rules, make policy choices, and stand up their own disaster recovery programs. In the meantime, many families make do with temporary housing provided by family, friends, or philanthropic resources. Codifying CDBG-DR will reduce the amount of time it takes for resources to get from Congress onto the ground.

 

Enterprise looks forward to working with Congress to make these changes to shorten the time between disaster and recovery. Check back to Enterprise’s blog for analysis following the hearing.