This bill — the Housing Survivors of Major Disasters Act of 2019 — would allow more survivors of major natural disasters to receive housing assistance. To do this, it would expand the types of evidence that can be used to establish residency in a dwelling after natural disasters, allow disaster assistance to be used to fund activities to establish property ownership, require the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to work with the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to immediately set up the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP) for survivors of Hurricane Maria, and require FEMA and HUD to consult about DHAP activation in the event of any future presidential disaster declarations.
Specifically, this bill would clarify and expand the types of housing that are eligible for disaster housing assistance. It would make funds under the Stafford Act available to be used by individuals or households occupying an otherwise unused property, rented household, boarding-house, bunkhouse, maintenance-of-way car, mobile home, manufactured home, or travel trailer, or who are homeless. It would also allow Stafford Act disaster relief funding to be used for land surveys, land titles, and any other taxes or fees associated with the transfer of property.
This bill would also expand the forms of evidence that can be accepted as proof of residence for the purpose of establishing eligibility for disaster assistance (currently, only a deed or title of ownership of a property suffices). It would allow for the use of any of the following:
- A utility bill;
- Merchant’s statement (e.g., credit card bill);
- Pay stub from an employer;
- Driver’s license or state-issued identification card;
- Mortgage payment booklet or other mortgage documents;
- Property title of mobile home;
- Real estate property tax receipts;
- School registration containing address of self, child, or children;
- A will and testament with the name and address of the individual;
- Medical records;
- Charitable donation receipts; or
- Any other documentation, certification, identification or proof of occupancy or ownership that can reasonably link the individual requesting assistance to damaged property.
This bill would require the FEMA administrator to create and distribute a form statement that applicants may use to self-certify for assistance. It also specifies that these statements are exempt from public notice and comment periods, and don’t need to be notarized.
This bill also specifies that applicants for assistance under the Stafford Act in 2017 or 2018 may have 180 days to reopen or appeal a determination on their application(s) for assistance under the new terms created by this bill’s enactment.Finally, this bill would require FEMA to enter into an interagency agreement with HUD to ensure the implementation of the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP) within 60 days after this bill’s enactment. Going forward, FEMA and HUD would be required to engage in consultations regarding DHAP’s implementation whenever the president declares a major disaster.