NLIHC: DHRC Weekly Update 3.11
As the number of confirmed Novel Coronavirus cases in the United States and around the world continue to climb, we at NLIHC - like many of you - are becoming increasingly concerned about the recently declared pandemic's impact on the communities we serve. People experiencing homelessness living in shelters or in encampments, immigrants, very low-income people, people living with disabilities, and all marginalized populations throughout the country are at high risk of exposure and serious illness. As the members of this group already know, disasters consistently reveal that the most marginalized communities are those the most hurt by disasters and the least likely to be helped afterward. Nothing indicates that the current crisis will be any different. As after other major disasters, NLIHC and the Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC) will work to ensure a just and equitable response and recovery. In keeping with that goal, the normal business of the DHRC will be supplemented by news, educational opportunities, and updates on the Novel Coronavirus pandemic.
As Congress debates a bill addressing the spread of the virus and its effect on the economy this week, we are urging congressional leaders to include multiple recommendations dealing with the housing and financial needs of low-income individuals. These recommendations include the creation of additional homeless assistance grants and increasing the number of housing units and shelter beds available for people experiencing homelessness, the creation of an emergency assistance fund to help prevent evictions, a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, as well as equal access to healthcare, housing, food assistance, and any other services provided in response to the pandemic. These recommendations will continue to be expanded in the coming weeks as congress reacts to the widening scale of the pandemic.
In addition, the latest news, updates, and guidance, on the pandemic and housing issues is available here on NLIHC's website. The site will be updated in the coming days and weeks as new developments emerge. These updates will also be available through the weekly update in a new coronavirus section.
The DHRC will hold a national webinar on Coronavirus and Housing/Homelessness on Monday, March 16, at 2:30 pmET, to share local, state and federal updates, and to plan for the advocacy ahead. Register for the webinar at: https://bit.ly/39GZAHD. We will have guest speakers from impacted areas, city and federal departments, and Capitol Hill. We'll send an agenda in advance of the call to those who have registered. Feel free to forward this invitation to others who would be interested in participating.
Additional updates below.
Disaster Housing Recovery Update,Wednesday, March 11,2020
· The Department of Agriculture announced that they would be relaxing some requirements of its summer meals program - allowing for eligible children to receive free meals through the program even if schools are closed.
· Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said that any economic relief package amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak must include funds to help support housing. The Senate Democrats' proposal includes many of the recommendations drafted by the NLIHC.
· Politico is reporting that the Trump Administration isheavily considering issuing a disaster declaration - clearing FEMA to respond to the outbreak. However, he worries that doing so would contradict his messaging about the outbreak.
· An article in Scientific American breaks down the unique medical risk the coronavirus poses for individuals experiencing homelessness.
· An idea posited in an op-ed in the LA Times calls for homeless outreach workers to double as public health officers.
· The City of San Francisco has created a $5 million fund focused on reducing the risk of exposure to the virus for marginally housed seniors, people with underlying health conditions, and individuals experiencing homelessness, living in shelters, single-room occupancy hotels (SROs), and Permanent Supportive Housing. Some of this funding has been used to provide RVs for individuals experiencing homelessness or who cannot otherwise quarantine safely.
· San Francisco Supervisor Dean Preston will be introducing legislation placing a moratorium on evictions during the current public health emergency.
· San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo introduced a proposal to prevent evictions while the Coronavirus emergency is occurring. The California Apartment Association said that they would support a commonsense moratorium on evictions. The moratorium would take effect upon passage and remain in effect for 30 days with the possibility of extensions.
· Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan is utilizing her public health emergency authority to expand shelter capacity for individuals experiencing homelessness. Over 100 additional spaces will be created at designated sites throughout the city.
· Seattle is also halting any power or water shut-off's due to nonpayment during the city's coronavirus emergency.
· In King County, one of the epicenters of the outbreak in the United States, a move by the county government to purchase a hotel to house patients in isolation is drawing legal and political opposition from a city government and a nearby car dealership.
· New York has not made any moves to increase shelter capacity or prevent eviction. The NYC Department of Health did release guidance for dealing with the virus in congregate settings.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Department of Housing and Urban Development
Federal Action & National News
· FEMA Administrator Pater Gaynor spoke to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure today in a hearing on FEMA's priorities for 2020 and beyond. The hearing covered a wide variety of topics, from flood insurance reform to staffing levels.
· Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA), a senior member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, introduced the “FEMA Disaster Preparedness Improvement Act” (H.R.6071) to increase FEMA support for disaster preparedness and emergency response to California and other states. Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA) is the bill's original cosponsor.
· The potential impacts of displacement and gentrification were already a concern for some Tennessee communities. There is concern that these efforts will exacerbate now that families are dealing with storm damages.
· Real estate speculators hoping to cash-in on a Nashville Opportunity Zone were quick to move into tornado damaged neighborhoods. The speculators offered cash to buy damaged homes, reaching disaster-affected households even before Disaster Recovery Centers could be set up.
· Nebraska officials provided updates regarding ongoing recovery efforts close to one year after damaging floods. Providing access to affordable housing is a “top priority” in their recovery efforts as they continue to work on their long-term disaster recovery plan.
· Nebraska officials are working together to stop predatory landlord practices that have resulted from last year's flooding. Work continues to be done throughout the area with a focus on long term housing recovery needs.
Puerto Rico Earthquakes and Hurricane Maria
· The Government of Puerto Rico, the Central Office for Reconstruction, Recovery and Resiliency (COR3) and FEMA have partnered together to open a Joint Field Office in Ponce. This office will serve as a central point of coordination and decision making close to the earthquake-impacted areas. The aim of the office is to receive and capitalize on all the federal assistance they are eligible for under the law.
· A Hurricane Maria Memorial, honoring the victims of Hurricane Maria, is in progress. The monument would stand in Stand in Battery Park City, New York, and designs can be viewed online.
Tropical Storm Imelda & Hurricane Harvey
· The State of Texas has appealed FEMA's denial of Texas' Major Disaster Declaration request for Public Assistance for Tropical Storm Imelda. The Governor initially requested a Presidential Disaster Declaration for Individual Assistance for six Texas counties in October 2019. Although that request was approved, a subsequent request for Public Assistance, submitted by Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) Chief Nim Kidd in December of 2019, was denied.
Hurricane Matthew and Hurricane Florence
· Rebuild North Carolina is seeking feedback for their state draft action plan that would spend $542 million in disaster recovery funding for storm damage from Hurricane Florence. The state can begin using the funds to implement Hurricane Florence recovery programs following the current comment period and approval of the action plan by HUD.
· Advocates in North Carolina are suggesting there is more to disaster recovery efforts that housing and jobs. Though those are vital, there are hopes to include funding for mental health and community rebuilding efforts simultaneously in the state's latest recovery Action Plan.
· Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced the Fairness in Disaster Relief Act, the bill would authorize the President to reimburse local governments for qualified interest payments. The legislation is a companion to the U.S. House bill that Congressman Neil Dunn introduced in November. Officials hope this bill would reduce the cost burden felt by cities.
· Hurricane Irma: The Office of Disaster Recovery (ODR), in collaboration with the Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority (VIHFA) and WTJX-TV Channel 12 (WTJX), has announced the launch of new television programming to provide the public with the most up to date information on the territory's progress towards recovery. “Recovery in Focus,” aims to provide viewers with the most recent developments in the Office of Disaster Recovery's five priority areas: hospitals, schools, roads, housing and power as well as other critical projects that impact the daily lives of residents.
· Texas 2019 Flooding: The City of San Marcos has declared affordable housing, public services, and public facilities as key priorities for CDBG funds. This is one of the major efforts to repair from their 2019 flooding.
Courtesy of NLIHC