This bill — the Reforming Disaster Recovery Act of 2019 — would permanently authorize the Community Development Block Grant - Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program. This program gives states and communities flexible, long-term recovery resources to rebuild affordable housing and infrastructure after a disaster.
This bill would provide safeguards and tools to help ensure that federal disaster recovery efforts reach all impacted households, including lowest-income seniors, disabled people, families with children, the homeless, and others who are hardest-hit by disasters, and who have the fewest resources to recover. To this end, it would:
- Require the equitable distribution of federal disaster recovery dollars between homeowners, renters, and people experiencing homelessness;
- Require that the use of federal recovery funds is balanced between rebuilding infrastructure and housing;
- Require federal recovery dollars be used to replace affordable housing for low-income residents by prioritizing the one-for-one replacement of damaged or destroyed public or federally subsidized rental housing;
- Maintain the current requirement that 70% of federal recovery funds benefit low- and moderate-income people, and give the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) clearer direction on how to adjust this requirement;
- Provide survivors with a clear appeal process to ensure that all households receive all the assistance that they might be eligible for;
- Require HUD to allocate federal disaster assistance money within 60 days of Congress approving CDBG-DR funding; and
- Require opportunities for public input on plans for the use of federal disaster assistance money.
To improve federal data transparency, this bill would also allow all federal agencies involved in disaster recovery efforts to access all data they need to make informed public policy decisions, allow greater public participation in disaster recovery efforts, and help public and private entities better recognize gaps in services and identify reforms needed for future disaster recovery efforts. It would also require HUD to make all data collected and analyzed in the course of disaster recovery, including data on damage caused by the disaster, how federal assistance was spent, and information on how the disaster affected education, transportation capabilities, housing needs, and displacement, publicly available.
States receiving federal recovery dollars would be required to:
- Publish contracts and agreements with third parties to carry out disaster recovery efforts; and
- Provide detailed plans outlining how they plan to use CDBG-DR funds and how those funds will be used to address relief, resiliency, long-term recovery, and restoration of manufactured housing in the most impacted areas.
This bill would also authorize disaster recovery data’s release to academic institutions for the purpose of conducting research on the equitable distribution of recovery funds, adherence to civil rights protections, and other disaster recovery-related topics.
This bill would also require the HUD Inspector General (HUD IG) to help ensure that disaster recovery programs serve all eligible households. The HUD IG would also be responsible for preventing waste, fraud, and abuse of federal disaster recovery funds.
To ensure that all communities and community members receive full access to disaster recovery resources without discrimination, this bill would:
- Require states to create a plan to ensure compliance with federal fair housing obligations; and
- Require HUD to release information about disaster recovery efforts that is disaggregated by race, geography, all protected classes of individuals (including race, disability, sex, age, color, religion, familial status, and national origin) under federal civil rights and nondiscrimination laws, and existing disaster assistance laws.
Finally, to help ensure that communities can maintain vital services during and directly after a disaster and recover more efficiently, this bill would:
- Require rebuilt or substantially repaired structures in flood areas to meet mitigation standards; and
- Require any infrastructure repaired or construction with federal recovery dollars to meet the minimum standard of protection from floods and storm waters.