April 21, 2018

Senators Call on FEMA to Immediately Work with HUD to Provide Longer-Term Housing for Hurricane Maria Survivors

HUD's Disaster Housing Assistance Program Was Used in Response to Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Sandy

Text of the letter available here (PDF)

Washington, DC - United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) today urged Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Brock Long to immediately enter into an agreement with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to stand up the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP) and address the medium and longer-term housing needs of Hurricane Maria survivors. More than 2,000 people are participating in the Transitional Shelter Assistance (TSA) program run by FEMA - including 445 in Massachusetts, 173 in New York, 127 in Connecticut, and 53 in New Jersey. That temporary program ends in the coming weeks. By refusing to enter into an agreement with HUD, FEMA is putting many of these families at risk of homelessness.

Both Republican and Democratic presidential administrations have identified HUD as the appropriate agency to handle the medium- and long-term housing needs of victims of natural disasters. DHAP provides subsidies to help families pay rent, put down a security deposit, or pay for utilities - support that is critical as they work to establish themselves in their new communities. No congressional action is required and the program was used in response to hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Sandy.

"The Puerto Rican survivors of Hurricane Maria are U.S. citizens who have experienced tremendous loss and hardship over the last year. FEMA's refusal to use the tools at its disposal, including DHAP, to help these survivors is puzzling - and profoundly troubling," wrote the senators. "I urge you to immediately reverse course and work with HUD to stand up the DHAP, to finally give these survivors permanent relief and stability.

Other federal and state programs would not meet the needs of these survivors like HUD's DHAP program. HUD's data shows that fewer than 1 in 4 of those who are eligible receive housing assistance and as a result waiting lists for vouchers and others programs are years long in some of the affected jurisdictions. State-based programs have either been unable to scale up their efforts or have strict criteria for who was eligible for assistance.

Read a PDF copy of the senators' letter here.