After $5 billion in recovery funds have been disbursed in Texas, to help repair homes, businesses and infrastructure following Hurricane Harvey, but renters are unlikely to see any of these funds, The New York Times reports.
“We do see jurisdictions where it looks very clear that homeowners are getting preferential treatment,” said Marion Mollegen McFadden, who ran a disaster-recovery grant program at HUD during the Obama administration and who is now SVP for public policy at the nonprofit Enterprise Community Partners.
“In some ways, it is a blind spot that the government has, except that it’s a blind spot that civil-rights advocates and others have brought a bright light to over the years in multiple recoveries,” McFadden adds.
“Renters just don’t have the same access to recovery resources that homeowners do,” Rachel Zummo, a lawyer for Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, told NYT. “ They are still struggling to recover from the setbacks the disaster caused.”
U.S. Reps. Randy Weber and Lizzie Fletcher introduced the Bipartisan Disaster Recovery Funding Act in May with support from 13 other co-sponsors from Texas, mostly from the Houston area, as well as supporters from other communities waiting on the funding, including Louisiana, South Carolina, Florida, and Puerto Rico.
The Act directs federal agencies to release the $16 billion in disaster funds Congress approved in early 2018 following Hurricane Harvey to different states and territories—including more than $4 billion to Texas—within 60 days.
“After Harvey hit, I fought alongside the Texas delegation to secure additional funds for Harvey survivors,” said U.S. Rep. Mike McCaul. “Unfortunately, the agencies tasked with distributing these funds did not respond with the same urgency.”
In New Jersey, renters faced a similar challenge in 2013 following Hurricane Sandy. Civil rights groups reached a settlement in 2014 that required New Jersey to increase the resources available to low-income renters, including establishing a $15 million pool for immediate help to displaced tenants.