June 4, 2018

Community Developments: Challenges in Obtaining Disaster Recovery Funds

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  • An article in Bloomberg notes that towns and cities in Florida and Texas are still waiting for 2017 hurricane aid while a new season starts, pointing out that “towns and cities in Florida and Texas are still waiting for hundreds of millions of dollars in promised reimbursement from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency for last year’s record destruction.” According to the article, in Florida, less than 1 percent of the promised $83 million in federal funds has reached cities and counties, and in Texas, more than one-third of the expected $695 million is still outstanding. These funds come from FEMA’s Public Assistance program, the agency’s largest disaster grants program, which aims to pay local governments at least 75 percent of the cost of emergency services, debris removal and the repair or replacement of public infrastructure after a presidentially declared disaster.  Advocacy groups and federal auditors argue that the delays can be largely explained by the unwieldy reimbursement process and the fact that FEMA is stretched thin by the pace and scale of disasters. (Bloomberg, June 1) 
     
  • Last week, eight Senators introduced the “Housing Victims of Major Disasters Act of 2018,” legislation that would require FEMA to enter into an interagency agreement with the HUD to implement the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP). This step would provide temporary rental assistance and services to households displaced by Hurricane Maria and future disasters. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the bill’s introduction comes in response to FEMA’s May 15 denial of Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello’s request for assistance through the DHAP five months earlier. (NLIHC, June 4) 
     
  • Cities across the northern areas of San Diego County have begun adding full-time social workers to help police officers and public housing officials with homeless outreach. Several cities are contracting local non-profits to hire case workers to assist with establishing support systems and providing immediate stability to homeless people in crisis situations. According to the Regional Task Force on the Homeless' most recent count, 8,576 individuals were found to be homeless in San Diego County in 2017, not including the nearly 600 that may have been uncounted. These efforts are supported by the Alliance for Regional Solutions, which includes eight cities, more than 60 nonprofits and a coordinated network of emergency shelters that last year moved 546 men, women and children off the streets and into stable housing. (The San Diego Union-Tribune, June 4)
     
  • A recent report finds that 12,112 individuals were experiencing homelessness in King County (WA) on the night of January 26, 2018, with more than half, or 6,320, sleeping outside of a shelter, including staying on the sidewalks and in vehicles, abandoned buildings or tents. The report points out that the major increase was in the number of homeless people sleeping in vehicles, a figure that grew 46 percent in the past year to more than 3,000 individuals—or more than half of those who are unsheltered. It also notes that 98 percent of those surveyed stated that they would move to into “safe and affordable housing” if it were offered to them, and 21 percent reported becoming homeless due to issues like eviction, rising rents or foreclosure. (Curbed Seattle, June 4) 
     
  • According to The New York Times, starting in early 2019, Mayor Michael Tubbs of Stockton, California plans to provide a guaranteed basic income of $500 a month to a select group of residents as part of a privately funded 18-month experiment. The city has not decided how many people will receive the monthly stipend from the $1 million pilot project, which is funded by The Economic Security Project. Mayor Tubbs explains that “in two or three years, we can have a much more informed discussion about the social safety net, the income floor people deserve and the best way to do it because we'll have more data and research." (The New York Times | Reuters, June 4)

In Case You Missed it

  • The Senate Appropriations Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD) Subcommittee will markup its FY 19 spending bill this week. Enterprise urges stakeholders to reach out to Senate Appropriators to voice their support for robust funding for essential programs like the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, the Community Development Block Grant Program, the Section 4 Capacity Building Program, and Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers. The Senate’s FY 2019 THUD bill follows the House version, which provided mostly level funding for housing and community development programs. For more information on the House bill and the appropriations process, see Enterprise’s blog post.

For the latest housing and community development news and notes, follow the Enterprise policy team on Twitter: @E_Housing Policy and subscribe to the Capitol Express Newsletter. The Enterprise Public Policy team works to safeguard, expand and improve programs that end housing insecurity. Learn more about our public policy efforts.