Disaster Housing Recovery Update – June 7, 2024

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its 2024 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook on May 23. NOAA forecasters predict between 17 and 25 named storms, of which eight to 13 will become hurricanes, with four to six of those hurricanes likely to reach “major hurricane” status of at least Category 3 ranking. Hurricane season began on June 1 and will continue through November 30. The above-normal prediction is based on projected La Niña activity in the Pacific, which weakens wind shear and enhances atmospheric instability, leading to optimal hurricane conditions.

The 2023 hurricane season yielded 20 named storms – the fourth highest since 1950 – despite what NOAA called “one of the strongest El Niños ever observed.” The climate shift from El Niño to La Niña has begun to impact severe weather events in the U.S., as seen in the increased tornado activity in the Great Plains region. Meteorologists confirmed that the U.S. just experienced the “most active May for severe weather since 2011.”

This disaster-filled month comes on the heels of the White House amending its fiscal year (FY) 2025 budget request on May 23 to cut $316 million from FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund (DRF). The administrator of FEMA, Deanne Criswell, has warned that without action from Congress, the DRF – which holds FEMA’s operational funding – could become so depleted that the agency would be forced to enact its Immediate Needs Funding (INF) policy, which pauses non-emergency response-related activities conducted by the agency in order to maintain preparedness.

Administrator Criswell urged communities to begin preparations for potential disasters. “With severe weather becoming part of our new normal,” said Administrator Criswell, “people need to be proactive and take steps now to stay safe and boost their ability to recover after a disaster. Building resilience can be as simple as making an emergency plan, talking about it with family and neighbors and staying informed.”

Read NOAA’s full report at: https://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/outlooks/hurricane.shtml

Read FEMA’s hurricane preparation advice at: https://www.ready.gov/hurricanes

Download the FEMA app to receive updates and sign up for emergency alerts.

Congressional and National Updates

The White House amended its FY 2025 budget request on May 23 to cut $316 million from FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund (DRF), presenting a major challenge. FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell has warned that without action from Congress, the DRF – which holds FEMA’s operational funding – could become so depleted that the agency would be forced to enact its Immediate Needs Funding (INF) policy, which pauses non-emergency response-related activities conducted by the agency in order to maintain preparedness. With a busy Hurricane Season already here, the importance of robustly funding the DRF cannot be overstated.

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives introduced several bills intended to improve disaster response. Rep. Gregory Murphy M.D. (R-NC) and Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) introduced the bipartisan “Prevent Environmental Hazards Act,” which would allow the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to offer payouts proactively to repair “condemned” homes that are likely to collapse in a disaster. NLIHC’s Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC) is concerned that the legislation stipulates that NFIP payouts post-disaster will be limited to 40% if those effected by this change are unable to act before a collapse. This stipulation fails to reckon with the fact that people with the lowest incomes have not had access to adequate funding to repair their houses for decades and that NFIP payouts rarely provide enough funding as is to repair houses.

The “Federal Disaster Assistance Act” and the “Disaster Loan Forgiveness Act” were both introduced in the House by Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA) on May 30. The “Federal Disaster Assistance Act” aims to improve FEMA’s response to localized disasters, especially in low-income communities. The bill would give counties affected by disaster the ability to request a presidentially declared disaster declaration even if their governor does not seek such assistance and to create a more quantitative evaluation of need for federal assistance, factoring in percentages of unemployment, low-income communities, and vulnerable populations. Additionally, the “Disaster Loan Forgiveness Act” would allow the Small Business Administration (SBA) the power to forgive Real Property Disaster Loans, Personal Property Disaster Loans, and Business Physical Disaster Loans for low-income individuals and families, as well as small businesses and small non-profit organizations.

State and Local Updates


At least 11 tornadoes touched down in Northern Arkansas over Memorial Day Weekend. Tornadoes, straight-line winds, and flooding killed 10 people, destroyed more than 300 homes, and left around 21,000 residents without power. President Biden declared a major disaster for the counties of Benton, Boone, and Marion and was commended by Governor Sarah Sanders for his “quick approval” of the request. Governor Sanders also called in around 200 National Guardsmen. Arkansas Department of Emergency Management Director A.J. Gary reported that while data collection is still ongoing, at least one county will need at least $20 million in recovery assistance. Those seeking assistance may apply online at DisasterAssistance.gov, call 1-800-621-3362, or use the FEMA App. Statewide resources are available at helparkansas.com.


The Lee County Commission devoted $41.6 million of a Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery fund to four local organizations committed to rehabilitating affordable housing units. These funds are from the $1.1 billion HUD granted to Lee County after Hurricane Ian in 2022. In total, this award is expected to yield 836 affordable housing units in six multi-family sites across Fort Myers. The rehabilitation projects include: Dunbar Improvement Association Inc, Lee County Housing Authority, The Housing Authority of the City of Fort Myers, and Southwest Florida Affordable Housing Choice Foundation.

As hurricane season begins, community organizations across Florida are taking preventative and mitigative measures to protect their neighborhoods from disasters. Miami Foundation CEO Rebecca Fishman Lipsey does not want to “wait for the checks to clear” before assisting her community and is issuing proactive grants to educate residents on hurricane precautions and provide necessary supplies. As a result, the Miami Foundation cocreated the Miami Disaster Relief Fund, a permanent, revolving fund designed to support Miami before, during, and after disasters.


Wildfire survivors are rapidly approaching the June 10 deadline for all help for non-congregate sheltering from FEMA and Red Cross to expire. The Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency has stated to organizers and advocates working in the affected communities that beginning on June 10, survivors will be on their own and responsible for paying for all of the costs associated with their housing. Groups on the ground warn that this is a terrible decision, state the deadline should have been increased, and warn that this will result in a massive homelessness increase.

Maui County Council approved a $1.7 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year, with “significant sums” dedicated to mitigation, housing plans, continued support for wildfire recovery. The Council pledged $61.4 million towards affordable housing projects in Kapalua and Lahaina, a $14.5 million increase from Mayor Richard Bissen’s proposal in March. Projects include Kaiaulu o Kupuohi, a low-income rental housing facility in Lahaina that opened less than a year before the fires, whose rebuilding efforts have slowed due to the $36 million gap between repair costs and insurance coverage. Once completed, the facility would rehouse approximately 300 former residents. Additionally, Council budget will expand staff of the Maui Emergency Management Agency and Maui Fire Department to include more comprehensive mitigation and emergency response programs.

The County of Maui also donated approximately 1.4 acres to Nā Hale O Maui, a nonprofit for affordable housing in Hawaii. This donation, closed on May 22, accounted for seven of 19 Fairways that the county decided to grant to Nā Hale O Maui; the remaining 12 are currently serving as temporary housing for survivors of the Maui wildfires. Mayor Richard Bissen stated that “housing for low- to moderate-income households is more urgent than ever.”


Nearly a third of Iowa sustained damage during severe storms and an EF-4 tornado on May 21. Governor Kim Reynolds has issued a disaster proclamation for 32 counties. This declaration allows residents to apply for the Iowa Individual Assistance Grant Program, in which households earning up to 200% of the poverty line can receive a grant up to $5,000. Additionally, President Biden declared a major disaster for four of these counties, allowing federal funding through FEMA’s Individual Assistance Program and the Small Business Association’s Disaster Loan Program.


Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear announced rental housing projects for counties recovering from tornadoes in December 2021. The $223 million project will go towards 953 units in Western Kentucky, where the housing shortage was exacerbated by the storms. The 11 projects will be distributed among Christian, Graves, Hopkins, and Warren counties. The complexes will be privately owned and income restricted. Wendy Smith, deputy executive director of housing programs at Kentucky Housing Corporation, estimates construction will begin in 2025 and last up to two years.


Residents of Leominster, Massachusetts are now able to apply for FEMA assistance for damage caused by a rainstorm last September. Despite 1,400 Massachusetts Disaster Declaration relief applicants, FEMA initially denied the aid to the city. After an appeal from Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey, President Joe Biden approved recovery support to Worcester and Bristol counties this month. The city reported $35 million in damages, including city infrastructure, small businesses, and homes. Those seeking assistance may apply online at DisasterAssistance.gov, call 1-800-621-3362, or use the FEMA App. Governor Healey’s budget proposal for the next fiscal year includes a new Disaster Relief and Resiliency Fund, as Massachusetts is one of two states that presently do not have a permanent disaster relief fund.


Governor Mike DeWine of Ohio requested a Presidential Disaster Declaration for severe storms that occurred in early April. Ohio Emergency Management Agency and local officials from the eight affected counties determined that the storms caused $33.8 million in damages. FEMA estimated damages to be $17.4 million, below the threshold for federal assistance ($21.7 million). Governor DeWine submitted the request despite the discrepancy, saying “the federal government’s reliance on Google Earth and its failure to give local officials the opportunity to provide additional information to support its estimate is concerning. These eight Appalachian counties cannot afford to fix the tremendous amount of infrastructure damage on their own, and I believe it's the President's duty to step in and help.” The request was placed on June 3 for Belmont, Guernsey, Jefferson, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Noble, and Washington counties.


Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo released a statement on the recovery efforts in wake of the Derecho and additional severe storms that have impacted the Houston area. FEMA’s Transitional Shelter Assistance program moved 4,845 Harris County residents into 201 hotels as of May 29. Additionally, the Greater Houston Disaster Alliance has raised nearly $2 million for the Derecho fund, designed to rapidly distribute funds to local nonprofits and hasten the speed of recovery. Judge Hidalgo warns that scammers posing as FEMA officers may try to help residents complete their relief applications and instead steal their personal information. Those seeking assistance may apply online at DisasterAssistance.gov, call 1-800-621-3362, or use the FEMA App; inspectors only visit homes once applications have been submitted.

Nine counties in North Texas have been added to FEMA’s Presidential Disaster Declaration in the wake of state-wide storms over the weekend. A combination of severe storms and tornados left more than 1 million customers without power across the state, including Houston, still recovering from their previous severe event. There are now 22 counties across Texas that can qualify for federal assistance due to the two severe weather events.

West Virginia

President Joe Biden approved individual federal aid for those impacted by tornadoes in West Virginia. On April 2, 10 tornadoes through multiple counties left 140,000 customers of Appalachian Power Company without power. FEMA has streamlined their aid process with a “simplified” application involving fewer requirements and more direct solutions, according to FEMA’s Trey Paul.

Resilience and Mitigation Corner

Register for HUD’s FFRMS Final Rule Webinar Series Part 2

HUD is holding a webinar on its newly published Federal Flood Risk Management Standard (FFRMS) Final Rule, which modifies its floodplain management regulations. The webinar will be split into two parts: one focusing on Part 55 of the rule and the other highlighting Part 200: Minimum Property Standards.

The first webinar, focused on Part 55 of the rule, occurred on May 30. The webinar covering Part 200 of the rule is slated to take place on June 13. Part 200 of the rule includes protection of wetlands, flood insurance, notification of flood hazards, public posting, and categorical exclusion as well as provides guidance on changes made to 24 CFR Part 200: Minimum Property Standards.

The webinar will be on Thursday, June 13, from 1:30 to 3:30 pm ET. Register today!

FEMA’s Swift Current Program Makes $300 Million Available in Much Needed Mitigation Funding

Thanks to the bipartisan infrastructure law, FEMA now has $300 million to fund its much needed and demonstrably effective Swift Current Fund. This program aims to provide states, territories, and Tribal Nations with additional funding to mitigate repetitively or substantially flood-damaged properties. These funds can be activated after a major disaster declaration for flood-related disasters. Funds can be used for needs like elevating a home, buying out homes, and relocation assistance. Unfortunately, in order to be eligible for this program, a house must have flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), whose expensive premiums can make the program out of reach for those with the lowest incomes.

FEMA has been running the Swift Current Program for the past three years. In 2022, it announced the first round of Swift Current funding, which allocated a total of $60 million. Then, in 2023, FEMA announced its second round of funding, which made $300 million available and expanded eligibility criteria to benefit more locations.

For this round of funding, applications open on June 1 and the last eligible disaster declaration date is May 31, 2025. Find the funding opportunity on Grants.gov.

Submit your application on FEMA Grants Outcomes (FEMA GO). Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis. The application deadline date will be provided to the applicant. Applications received by FEMA after the deadline will not be considered for funding. For more information, interested NFIP policyholders should contact their state or territory hazard mitigation officer.