As FEMA and our federal partners continue to work with states to recover from Hurricane Sandy, an increasing number of residents whose homes were severely damaged or destroyed by the storm have been displaced from their homes and are seeking sheltering alternatives. FEMA is working directly with states, which lead housing efforts, to identify solutions to meet the needs of survivors.
States and non-governmental organizations like the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, including The Salvation Army, American Red Cross, and Southern Baptist Convention, are working to ensure displaced disaster survivors are provided shelter, food and water. As we reach the one week mark since Hurricane Sandy made landfall, we understand that many residents may be asking themselves what their options are as they confront the challenge of finding short-term accommodations and the possibility of needing long-term housing.
In response to those needs, and at the request of New York and New Jersey, FEMA has activated its Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) program, which allows eligible survivors who are in shelters and cannot return to their homes due to storm-related damages to stay in participating hotels or motels until more suitable housing accommodations are available. FEMA’s contracted vendor, Corporate Lodging Consultants, is maintaining a list of participating hotels and motels, and working to bring on more hotels to ensure that the needs of all survivors are being met. Hotel and motel owners who wish to become a participating hotel can sign up at https://ela.corplodging.com/
FEMA is actively processing registrations for disaster assistance through our call centers. We have inspectors on the ground assessing disaster damages and FEMA is approving financial assistance for housing (such as rental and home repair assistance) and financial assistance for other essential needs (such as disaster-related medical needs, replacement of lost clothing, furniture, and other necessary items). As of 3pm, more than 230,000 individuals have registered for assistance, and more $203 million has been approved.
More than 1200 FEMA Community Relations (CR) specialists are on the ground meeting with residents in New York and New Jersey to explain the types of assistance that are available through the federal government and to help residents register.
Even while we are focused on the immediate housing needs of survivors, in support of the State, the Federal Family is also beginning to look at the long-term recovery needs of survivors and their local communities. FEMA has appointed Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinators in New York and New Jersey who are assessing the unique recovery challenges that lay ahead. One such example is the long-term housing needs of those displaced in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
FEMA is one part of a large team that is working together to support the State in meeting the housing needs of disaster survivors. This joint effort is comprised of housing and technical experts from the State, Housing & Urban Development (HUD), FEMA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Small Business Administration (SBA) and voluntary agencies. Work being done by some of these partner agencies to address housing needs includes:
- SBA provides low interest disaster loans to eligible homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes and private, nonprofit organizations to repair or replace dwellings real estate, personal property, machinery & equipment, and inventory and business assets that have been damaged or destroyed.
- HUD is coordinating with FEMA, and affected States, to identify housing providers who may have available housing units, including public housing agencies and multi-family owners. HUD's Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME programs give State and communities the flexibility to redirect millions of dollars to address critical needs, including housing and services for disaster survivors. HUD's Section 203(k) loan program enables those who have lost their homes to finance the purchase or refinance of a house along with its repair through a single mortgage. It also allows homeowners who have damaged houses to finance the rehabilitation of their existing single-family home.
- The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) are waiving low-income housing tax credit rules that would prohibit owners of low-income housing from providing housing to survivors of Hurricane Sandy who do not qualify as low-income. This means that there will be an increased availability of housing for disaster survivors and their families.
Through the FEMA Housing Portal, eligible individuals and families who have been displaced by Hurricane Sandy can search for available rental units in their area that have been provided by Federal agencies such as HUD, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Veterans Administration, IRS, as well as by private organizations and individuals.
The first step for individuals to be considered for assistance is to register. There are several options for getting help, including:
- Calling 1-800-621-FEMA(3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (local time) seven days a week until further notice;
- Registering online at http://www.disasterassistance.gov; or
- Registering through a web-enabled mobile device at m.fema.gov.