Senators Introduce Bill to Provide Stable Housing for Hurricane Survivors

Legislation Comes After Trump Administration Refused to Activate Program to Aid Evacuees from Puerto Rico

Bill Text (PDF) | Fact Sheet (PDF)

Washington, DC - A group of eight U.S. senators today announced legislation that would activate the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP) to provide stable housing for survivors of major hurricanes. The senators introduced the legislation after the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) refused to activate DHAP despite urgent need and requests from Members of Congress and from the Governor of Puerto Rico. The Housing Victims of Major Disasters Act of 2018 will be introduced by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).

"The federal government is failing the people of Puerto Rico who are still recovering from the devastating hurricanes - we owe our fellow U.S. citizens much better," Senator Warren said. "When disaster strikes, people who are displaced deserve safe, stable housing and a chance to get back on their feet. If FEMA won't do its job, Congress should step up and act to help the thousands of evacuees who are now living in Massachusetts and across the country."         

"As we brace for the start of hurricane season, it is inexcusable that we continue to witness a complete abdication of leadership from the Trump administration in assisting those devastated by the hurricane season of last year," said Senator Markey. "American citizens deserve far better than the mistreatment our Puerto Rican brothers and sisters have received, and we must push for action in Congress so that they are at least provided the housing security they deserve."

"This legislation will help provide families who fled Hurricane Maria with a fundamental need: a roof over their heads," said Senator Blumenthal. "The failure of our federal government to provide these kinds of basic necessities to our fellow Americans in the wake of a natural disaster is unforgivable. The administration's past failures to adequately address this crisis shouldn't prevent us from taking action now."

DHAP is a partnership between the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and FEMA and it provides subsidies that help survivors pay rent, put down a security deposit, or pay for utilities. The program was implemented after previous major disasters, including Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. Despite the large-scale damage caused by Hurricanes Maria in Puerto Rico, FEMA has refused to set up DHAP as part of its recovery efforts.

The Housing Victims of Major Disasters Act of 2018 would force action by requiring FEMA to work with HUD to set up DHAP immediately for survivors of Hurricane Maria, by requiring FEMA and HUD to consult about setting up DHAP in the event of any future presidential disaster declarations, and by establishing measures to aid evacuees who lack formal legal documentation for their homes or who need to gain title to their land.

"It's been nearly 9 months since Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico and many of our fellow United States citizens are still struggling to obtain basic and livable housing," said Rep. Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), who introduced the Housing Victims of Major Disasters Act in the House earlier this Congress. "Thousands of residents remain without adequate resources or assistance, only half of the population have reliable electricity and water, medical supplies are scarce, schools are closing and families are having to leave their homes because resources have remained limited. For Puerto Rico residents without land permits, the circumstances are even more dire and we know that FEMA has only approved 40% of Individual and Household grants, citing this as an issue. With hurricane season around the corner and FEMA's announcement to end the Transitional Shelter Assistance (TSA) program, we need this legislation enacted into law. I commend Senator Warren for introducing this bill in the Senate to specifically address the critical needs and ongoing challenges that these residents continue to face nearly half a year later."

The legislation is supported by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Oxfam, the Hispanic Federation, the Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition, and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

"Senator Warren's Housing Victims of Major Disasters Act will provide FEMA with critically needed flexibility after natural disasters to ensure that people can get access to the assistance they need," said Oxfam America's Director of Government Affairs Linda Delgado.  "In Puerto Rico, it will help those impacted by Hurricane Maria overcome the huge roadblocks in accessing funds from FEMA's Individual and Households Program due to land title issues on the island. The legislation will also benefit others in future natural disasters."

"NLIHC and its Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition strongly support legislation offered by Senator Warren to hold FEMA accountable for its continued refusal to provide critical housing assistance to thousands of Puerto Rican families displaced after Hurricane Maria," said Diane Yentel, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. "By rejecting Puerto Rico Governor Rossello's call for assistance more than five months ago, FEMA has chosen to deny vulnerable survivors, including the lowest income seniors, people with disabilities, and families with children, the stable homes they need to get back on their feet. It is vital that Congress enact Senator Warren's bill immediately, before the new hurricane season threatens to put even more families at risk of evictions and, in worst cases, homelessness."

A fact sheet about the bill is available here, and the full text of the bill is available here. Companion legislation previously was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), Congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón (R-P.R.), and 16 other cosponsors. The Senate bill will be formally introduced when the Senate returns next week from recess.

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Senadores Presentan Proyecto de Ley para Proporcionar Viviendas Estables para los Sobrevivientes de Huracanes

La Legislación Proviene Después de que la Administración Trump Se Niega a Activar un Programa para Ayudar a los Evacuados de Puerto Rico

Texto de la Ley (PDF) | Hoja Informativa (PDF)

Washington, DC - Hoy, un grupo de ocho senadores estadounidenses anunció un proyecto de ley que activaría el Programa para Asistencia de Vivienda por Desastre (DHAP, por sus siglas en inglés) para proporcionar viviendas estables para los sobrevivientes de grandes huracanes.  Los senadores anunciaron el proyecto de ley después de que la Agencia Federal para el Manejo de Emergencias (FEMA, por sus siglas en inglés) se negó a activar DHAP a pesar de la necesidad urgente y las solicitudes de los miembros del Congreso y del gobernador de Puerto Rico. La Ley de Vivienda para Víctimas de Grandes Desastres del 2018 será presentada por los senadores Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), Edward J. Markey (D-Massachusetts), Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon), Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-Nueva York), y Kamala Harris (D-California). 

"El gobierno federal le está fallando al pueblo puertorriquense, que aún se sigue recuperando de los devastadores huracanes--le debemos mucho más a nuestros ciudadanos estadounidenses," declaró la senadora Warren. "Cuando ocurre un desastre, las personas desplazadas merecen viviendas seguras, estables y la oportunidad de volver a ponerse de pie.  Si FEMA no hace su trabajo, el Congreso debería actuar y ayudar a los miles de evacuados que ahora viven en Massachusetts y en todo el país."

"A medida que nos preparamos para el comienzo de la temporada de huracanes, es imperdonable que sigamos siendo testigos de una abdicación total de liderazgo de la Administración Trump para ayudar a aquellos que fueron devastados por la temporada de huracanes del año pasado," declaró el senador Markey. "Los ciudadanos estadounidenses se merecen mucho más que el maltrato que nuestros hermanos y hermanas puertorriqueñas han sufrido y debemos impulsar la acción en el Congreso para que por lo menos tengan la seguridad de vivienda que se merecen."

"Esta legislación proveerá a las familias que huyeron del huracán María con una necesidad fundamental: un techo sobre sus cabezas," declaró el senador Blumenthal. "La falla de nuestro gobierno federal en proporcionar este tipo de necesidades básicas a nuestros compatriotas americanos después de un desastre natural es imperdonable.  Las fallas anteriores de la administración para abordar adecuadamente esta crisis no debería impedir que actuemos ahora."

DHAP es una asociación entre el Departamento de Vivienda y Desarrollo Urbano (HUD, por sus siglas en inglés) y FEMA que proporciona subsidios que ayudan a que los sobrevivientes paguen el alquiler de viviendas, un depósito de seguridad, o servicios públicos. El programa se implementó después de desastres anteriores como los huracanes Katrina y Sandy.  A pesar de la devastación causada por el huracán María en Puerto Rico, FEMA se ha negado a lanzar DHAP como parte de sus esfuerzos de recuperación.

La Ley de Vivienda para Víctimas de Grandes Desastres del 2018 obligaría a la acción al exigir que FEMA trabaje con HUD para lanzar DHAP inmediatamente para los sobrevivientes del huracán María, al requerir que FEMA y HUD se consulten sobre el lanzamiento del programa DHAP en caso de cualquier declaración presidencial por desastre en el futuro, y al establecer medidas para ayudar a los evacuados sin documentación de derecho de propiedad o a los que necesitan obtener el título de propiedad.

El proyecto de ley ha sido respaldado por la Federación Hispana, UnidosUS, Oxfam, National Low-Income Housing Coalition, Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition, y la Federación Americana de Maestros. 

Una hoja informativa sobre el proyecto de ley está disponible aquí, y el texto completo está disponible aquí. El proyecto de ley equivalente fue presentado en la Cámara de Representantes por el congresista Adriano Espaillat (D-Nueva York), la congresista Jenniffer González-Colón (R-Virginia) y otros 16 copatrocinadores. El proyecto de ley del Senado se presentará formalmente cuando el Senado regrese del receso la próxima semana.

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