HUD makes sweeping changes to its disaster recovery program

The changes include the establishment of new offices and billions of dollars in additional CDBG grants

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on Wednesday announced a sweeping overhaul of the agency’s disaster recovery efforts to improve the response for communities impacted by climate change.

HUD has played an expanded role in the response to natural disasters in recent years. As such, the Department is establishing two new offices: the Office of Disaster Management (ODM) in the Office of the Deputy Secretary and the Office of Disaster Recovery (ODR) within the Office of Community Planning and Development.

This includes “dozens” of additional staff to help expedite the establishment of the offices — and an investment of $3.4 billion in Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds.

“The allocated funds will help communities in Alaska, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Puerto Rico recover from disasters and build resilience from climate effects, with a specific focus on low- and moderate-income populations,” HUD said in an announcement about the move. “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.”

These efforts are expected to help HUD streamline collaboration efforts and better meet its goals, the Department said.

“These steps will 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 said.

These efforts were announced on Wednesday during events by Department leaders. HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge spoke of these new efforts during a visit to Jackson, Kentucky, a state that recently received about $300 million in recovery funds.

Deputy HUD Secretary Adrianne Todman also spoke of the moves in Ft. Myers, Florida, a state where communities are receiving $2.7 billion in funds for a number of disasters that have recently occurred.

“HUD is committed to helping underserved communities in hard-hit areas recover from  disasters,” said Fudge. “We know that far too often, not-so-privileged households bear the brunt of climate-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.”

These initiatives follow a December 2022 request for information by HUD, in which the Department asked for ways to simplify, modernize, and more equitably distribute disaster recovery funds in the form of CDBG grants related to disaster recovery (CDBG-DR) and mitigation (CDBG-MIT). 

“Over the last two decades, an increasing number of major disasters have impacted the nation and highlighted the importance of effective disaster management at the Federal, State and Local levels of government,” HUD said. “HUD plays an outsized role in preparing relocations of populations, addressing disaster-related housing needs, supporting [the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)] with evacuation, sheltering HUD-assisted residents, developing interim housing solutions, and leading planning and supporting  long-term, sustainable community recovery.”

These efforts fall under a Climate Action Plan released by HUD in October of 2021 — a plan put into motion through an executive order during the first week of President Joe Biden’s term in office.

Last year, HUD announced that homeowners with Federal Housing Administration-insured mortgage financing will now be allowed to obtain private flood insurance policies. This was done in an effort to expand consumer options and protect borrowers from the leading type of natural disaster nationwide.

In addition, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) and three Republican colleagues recently reintroduced a bill designed to permit policyholders under the National Flood Insurance Program to have prior premium rates remain in effect until the FEMA administrator satisfies certain conditions. A prior version was introduced last year but failed to progress.

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