Menendez, Colleagues Urge FEMA to Work with HUD to Provide Longer-Term Housing for Hurricane Maria Survivors

Menendez, Colleagues Urge FEMA to Work with HUD to Provide Longer-Term Housing for Hurricane Maria Survivors


WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez was among five senators who wrote a letter today urging the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to immediately enter into an agreement with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to stand up the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP) and address the medium and longer-term housing needs of Hurricane Maria survivors.

“The Puerto Rican survivors of Hurricane Maria are U.S. citizens who have experienced tremendous loss and hardship over the last year. FEMA’s refusal to use the tools at its disposal, including DHAP, to help these survivors is puzzling – and profoundly troubling,” the senators wrote to FEMA Administrator Brock Long. “I urge you to immediately reverse course and work with HUD to stand up the DHAP, to finally give these survivors permanent relief and stability.”

Currently, more than 2,000 people are participating in the Transitional Shelter Assistance (TSA) program run by FEMA – including 53 in New Jersey and 173 in New York – but that temporary program ends in the coming weeks. By refusing to enter into an agreement with HUD, FEMA is putting many of these families at risk of homelessness.

Both Republican and Democratic presidential administrations have identified HUD as the appropriate agency to handle the housing needs of victims of natural disasters. DHAP provides subsidies to help families pay rent, put down a security deposit, or pay for utilities – support that is critical as they work to establish themselves in their new communities. No congressional action is required and the program was used in response to hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Sandy. 

Other federal and state programs would not meet the needs of these survivors like HUD’s DHAP program. HUD’s data shows that fewer than 1 in 4 of those who are eligible receive housing assistance and as a result waiting lists for vouchers and others programs are years long in some of the affected jurisdictions. State-based programs have either been unable to scale up their efforts or have strict criteria for who was eligible for assistance.

Joining Sen. Menendez on the letter are Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

A copy of the letter can be found here