Lawmakers Reintroduce Bill to Activate Disaster Housing Assistance Program

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Representative Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) together with 10 of their Senate and House colleagues reintroduced the "Housing Survivors of Major Disasters Act of 2019" (S 1605 and HR 2914) on May 22. This bill would require FEMA to enter into an interagency agreement with HUD to implement the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP), providing temporary rental assistance and wrap-around counseling services for individuals affected by recent and future disasters. The proposal also aims to address barriers low-income survivors face when applying for FEMA assistance.

The bill builds on a proposal introduced during the previous Congress by including language that will help ensure all disaster survivors receive FEMA assistance, even if they do not have documentation related to their residences. This provision would make applying for aid easier for renters without leases, unsheltered individuals, people experiencing homelessness, and homeowners without formal titles. After every disaster, local advocates find these survivors are often denied assistance even when otherwise eligible.

Joining Senator Warren and Representative Espaillat on the bicameral bill were Representative Jenniffer González-Colón (R-PR) and Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Tim Kaine (D-VA).

In a press release, NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel offered strong support for the bill: "On behalf of the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition, I applaud Senator Elizabeth Warren and Congressman Adriano Espaillat for introducing legislation to enact critically needed reforms to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to ensure that the lowest-income survivors – including seniors, people with disabilities, families with children, people experiencing homelessness, and other individuals – receive the housing assistance they need to rebuild their lives. Congress should immediately enact this legislation and hold FEMA accountable for its continued failure to address the housing needs of the most vulnerable survivors, which has forced thousands of families to return to uninhabitable homes, sleep in cars or shelters, double- or triple-up with other low-income families, or pay far too much of their incomes on rent, putting them at higher risk of evictions and, in worst cases, homelessness."

In the same press release, Representative Espaillat called the lack of adequate and timely disaster relief “a slap in the face and blatant disregard of the lives of thousands of individuals and families in need.” Senator Warren stated: "The Housing Survivors of Major Disasters Act would push the Federal government to step up for these families and make it easier for them to access the help they are entitled to and desperately need."

Read text of the bill at: https://bit.ly/2Et9NKb

Read the press release at: https://bit.ly/30HxIPA

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