HUD allocates $166M to Puerto Rico in disaster recovery program overhaul
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced an overhaul of the agency’s disaster recovery efforts to better serve communities who face the direct impacts of weather-related disasters.
Puerto Rico was allocated some $144.6 million in “total unmet needs,” which addresses needs that other federal programs have yet to address, according to federal agency.
In addition, some $21.6 million were allocated in mitigation funds for a total of some $166.3 million in disaster allocations, assigned by HUD.
In a press release, HUD said that based on the increasing number of disasters and the increasingly important role that the agency is playing in the federal government’s preparedness, response, and recovery efforts, HUD announced the establishment of the Office of Disaster Management in the Office of the Deputy Secretary, the Office of Disaster Recovery within the Office of Community Planning and Development, the addition of dozens of new HUD staff members to help expedite recovery processes, and the allocation of more than $3.3 billion in Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery funds.
These steps will help streamline the agency’s disaster recovery and resilience work by increasing coordination, reducing bureaucracy, and increasing capacity to get recovery funding to communities more quickly by facilitating collaborative, transparent disaster recovery planning with communities earlier in the process.
HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge made the announcement in Jackson, Kentucky, as the state received nearly $300 million, while HUD Deputy Secretary Adrianne Todman made the announcement in Ft. Myers, Florida as communities throughout Florida will receive over $2.7 billion state-wide.
“HUD is committed to helping underserved communities in hard-hit areas recover from disasters,” Fudge said. “We know that far too often, not-so-privileged households bear the brunt of weather-related disasters. We will ensure they have access to the resources they need to rebuild and recover, equitably. Today’s announcement sends a strong message: equity is elemental to the disaster recovery work of HUD and the Biden-Harris Administration.”
The announcement follows the first-time the federal agency has asked the public for feedback on how to simplify, modernize, and more equitably distribute critical disaster recovery funds: Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery and Mitigation. Given the increased role as the lead federal agency for housing recovery and the impact of disasters on HUD’s portfolios, a noticeable need has emerged for enhanced coordination “department-wide,” as well as with other federal, state, and local partners to assist impacted communities and families.
Over the last two decades, an increasing number of major disasters have impacted the nation and U.S. territories and highlighted the importance of having effective disaster management at federal, state and local government levels.
HUD “plays an outsized role” in preparing relocations of populations, addressing disaster related housing needs, supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency with evacuation, sheltering HUD assisted residents, developing interim housing solutions, and leading planning and supporting long-term, sustainable community recovery.
“Equitable disaster recovery and resilience is a priority of HUD’s Climate Action Plan, which notes that the Department is committed to advancing the goals of Executive Order 13985,” the press release further adds. “This requires HUD to allocate resources in a manner that equitably invests in underserved communities, particularly in communities of color.”
The allocated funds will help communities in Alaska, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Puerto Rico “recover from disasters and build resilience,” with a specific focus on low- and moderate-income populations.
The funds are specified to be used for disaster relief, long-term recovery, restoration of infrastructure and housing, economic revitalization, and mitigation, in the most impacted and distressed areas.