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Maloney Demands FEMA Reconsider Decision to Deny Housing Assistance to Puerto Rico

May 31, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON —  After the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) denied Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló’s request for assistance through the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP), Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18) demanded that FEMA Administrator Brock Long reconsider the decision in a letter dated May 28th. The DHAP program was created in the wake of housing failures during Hurricane Katrina and is designed to help Americans with the greatest financial need to find permanent housing, secure employment, and connect to public benefits after a natural disaster.

“FEMA’s response to the Governor was a slap in the face to every American in Puerto Rico and their refusal to use the DHAP program is based more in political beliefs than a focus on outcomes,” said Rep. Maloney. “It took the agency five months to get back to the Governor – folks in Texas and Florida got the swift and comprehensive assistance all Americans deserve immediately after Harvey and Irma – but that same level of assistance was not provided to the people of Puerto Rico.”

“On behalf of the NLIHC-led Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition and its more than 700 member organizations, I thank Congressman Maloney for calling on FEMA to approve the request made by Puerto Rico Governor Rossello more than five months ago for critical resources to help displaced survivors afford a stable home while they get back on their feet,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “It is unacceptable that FEMA continues to refuse to address the housing needs of vulnerable disaster survivors, including the lowest income seniors, people with disabilities, and families with children. We appreciate Rep. Maloney’s leadership in helping to hold FEMA accountable.”

The DHAP program was created in response to the myriad emergency response failures associated with the response to Hurricane Katrina, specifically for low-income residents who were displaced from their homes. The DHAP program provides time-limited rental subsidies and case management to households affected by different disasters. The contours of the program change based on the need of local residents and the nature of the disaster affecting them. The DHAP program has been successfully implemented to assist survivors of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, Ike as well as Superstorm Sandy.

On December 14, the Governor of Puerto Rico requested in writing that FEMA implement the DHAP program on the island to help impoverished residents recover from Hurricane Maria. Five months later, FEMA’s Federal Coordinating Officer finally offered a response, which denied the request and mentioned various other programs which had been implemented. After FEMA sent the response, more than 700 affordable housing groups criticized the organization, claiming that the organization is “misleading the public” regarding the importance of DHAP.

An original copy of the letter can be found here and the text is available below.


Dear Administrator Long,

I write you regarding the urgent housing needs facing our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico. I understand that Governor Rosselló has requested Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP) support for survivors of Hurricane Maria from FEMA. I also understand that this request was denied. I strongly urge you to reconsider this decision. It is critical that FEMA allow Puerto Rico to access DHAP so that thousands of Americans have the simple security provided by having a roof over their head.

Puerto Rico is still at the early stages of recovering from the effects of Hurricane Maria after it hit the island on September 20. Since then, I have personally visited the island and spoken with Governor Rosselló multiple times. He has told me repeatedly that Puerto Rico still doesn’t have the resources it needs to rebuild its power grid, let alone repair and rebuild housing. It has taken far too long to get Puerto Rico the support it needs, and scandals like the selection of contractor Bronze Star to furnish plastic tarps and sheeting have further delayed necessary aid. The response following Hurricane Maria has been unacceptable and has left millions of Americans without electricity, water, food, and roofs over their heads.

Puerto Rico is home to over three million Americans who contribute to our national economy and have family members across the continental United States, many of whom are in New York’s 18th district. No American should have to struggle to find housing, especially after a disaster – and especially when there are programs that were created specifically to alleviate suffering in such situations. 

The DHAP is a necessary and immediate solution to the housing needs now faced by thousands of Puerto Rican families. The rental assistance and case management services it would provide for survivors of the disaster would offer them the stability needed to secure employment and access other public benefits as they rebuild their lives.

I request that you allow survivors of Hurricane Maria to access the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Disaster Housing Assistance Program immediately.

Thank you for your attention to this issue. Please contact my Washington, D.C. office if there is any additional information I can provide.