December 20, 2022

HUD: Agency Seeking First-of-Its-Kind Input to More Equitably and Accurately Allocate Disaster Recovery Funds

Two new Requests for Information (RFIs) to mark inaugural feedback effort for Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today released two new Requests for Information (RFIs), marking the first time the Department has asked the public for feedback on how to simplify, modernize, and more equitably distribute critical disaster recovery funds: Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) and Mitigation (CDBG-MIT). This move is a broader element of HUD’s newly published Climate Action Plan, which emphasizes both equity and resilience in disaster recovery, as well as the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to strengthening low- and moderate-income communities. 

“Having visited the damage of Hurricanes Ian and Ida, I have seen firsthand how weather-related disasters harm communities unequally,” said Marcia L. Fudge, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). “Here at HUD, we know that investing in equity and resilience presents us an opportunity to meet our climate goals and build more stable, diverse, and inclusive communities with quality affordable homes for all. These RFIs are the next step in our process to ensure recovery resources can be delivered more efficiently and equitably in the future.” 

“Through CDBG-DR funding, we can provide critical support to disaster recovery survivors who need it most,” said Marion Mollegen McFadden, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development. “Only HUD offers disaster resources that prioritize the needs of people of modest means. Unfortunately, the one-off appropriation process delays local access to these funds by months, confusing grantees, producing unnecessary barriers to participation in recovery programs, and thus dulling the effects of our efforts. It’s time we right these wrongs by streamlining how these funds are disseminated – while doubling down on our responsibility to ensure equitable outcomes.” 

“The first step in strengthening the CDBG-DR program is, for the very first time, seeking feedback on what data and information HUD should use in assessing the need for assistance and making funding available,” said Solomon Greene, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research, said. “I am proud that the Biden-Harris Administration is asking the public to share thoughts with us. Other HUD programs benefit from public comments, and I expect that recommendations in response to this RFI will inform how HUD makes future allocations.”

CDBG-DR and CDBG-MIT funds focus on long-term recovery and resilience efforts, targeted to families with low- and moderate-incomes in the most impacted and distressed areas. Through CDBG-DR, HUD spends billions of dollars helping communities recover from the most devastating disasters. CDBG-DR and CDBG-MIT funds are unique from other Federal disaster assistance programs administered by FEMA and the SBA, as well as private insurance, as the only federal resource with the primary purpose of benefitting low- and moderate-income communities.

But despite their importance, there is no regular annual appropriation for CDBG-DR and statutory authority is provided through each appropriation. This means HUD must customize grant requirements for each disaster through Federal Register notices, resulting in delays in disbursal of funds, lack of standardization and consistency, and the need for grantees to manage multiple grants with different rules. HUD estimates that it takes 1.5 years from the time of disaster until the first CDBG-DR dollar is spent on physical housing recovery. These RFIs will inform the policy that will tear down barriers and eliminate unnecessary administrative burden, as to provide better and quicker assistance to those affected. 

HUD’s Climate Action Plan notes that the Department is committed to advancing the goals of Executive Order 13985, which requires that HUD allocate resources in a manner that addresses the historic failure of the Federal government to invest sufficiently, justly, and equally in underserved communities, particularly communities of color. These RFIs are a result of both this long-term strategy and the greater efforts of the Biden-Harris administration to prioritize an equitable and methodical response to Presidentially-declared natural disasters. 

In another example of the Biden-Harris Administration’s effort to hasten and modernize disaster response, Secretary Fudge announced the first round of funding allocations through the new Rapid Unsheltered Survivor Housing (RUSH) program this October. These funds address homelessness by filling in federal assistance gaps in communities hit by disasters. The first round of funding consisted of $6.8 million to the State of Florida and seven of the state’s localities impacted by Hurricane Ian.

To review the Request for Information on HUD’s Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG–DR) Rules, Waivers, and Alternative Requirements, click here.

To review the Request for Information for the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG–DR) Formula, click here.

This post was originally published here.