FEMA Policies

From FEMA Answers



Existing FEMA Policies

FEMA is governed by laws, regulations, and other administrative guidance. FEMA is required to follow these rules at all times, from devising its plans for assistance to the distribution of aid.



The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, Public Law 93-288, as amended, was enacted to provide assistance to state and local governments during times of disaster. Under this law FEMA has the authority, based upon the declaration of a disaster by the President, to use federal funds to provide assistance to states and local communities. This act outlines how to obtain a Presidential disaster declaration, the type and scope of assistance available, and how to receive such assistance.



FEMA's regulations are found at volume 44 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Many operative sections for individual relief at at 44 C.F.R. Part 206, and in particular, here is a direct link to Subpart D for Federal Assistance to Individuals and Households, or the entire part in .pdf format.


Administrative Guidance

FEMA Public Assistance Policies

FEMA Federal Disaster Aid Programs

Through a press release, FEMA has released information about the transitional housing program.


Disaster Impact Reports

On November 30, Texas housing advocates released a study on an impending crisis for the long term housing needs of 150,000 evacuess now living in Texas. The full report is available here.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) issued a report on October 13, detailing the current transitional housing situation and making recommendations for changes. The report is entitled Changes Needed in Katrina Transitional Housing Plan To Meet Families’ Needs. CBPP published a September 9 report entitled Essential Facts about the Victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The Center for American Progress issued a report on October 12 entitled Rebuilding Homes and Lives: Progressive Options for Housing Policy Post Katrina.

On April 27, the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security issued a report entitled Hurrican Katrina: A Nation Still Unprepared.


Federal Housing Agency Policies

FEMA and HUD are both delivering some housing assistance. By late September, 2005, these agencies have outlined the assistance offered. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has developed a Sept 29 memo of analysis and questions for the policies as outlined.

FEMA and HUD Post-Katrina Rental Assistance Program

A November 3 report was issued by CBPP on bringing home Katrina's poorest victims. The report details how giving Katrina’s neediest victims a real option to come home will require targeted rental assistance able to cover the gap between increased post-hurricane rents and the incomes of the poorest households.


HUD Policies

HUD Slideshow on Disaster Response. While not exactly a source document for policies, this slideshow explains some of HUD's response. This slideshow includes an explanation of the Katrina Disaster Housing Assistance Program (KDHAP). HUD Slideshow

Katrina Frequently Asked Questions. HUD document that answers questions from housing authorities trying to assist victims displaced by Katrina. Focuses on procedure and policy. Frequently Asked Questions (Sept. 13)

Disaster Guidance from HUD's Office of Public and Indian Housing. The document discusses priorities and methods for providing benefits to former voucher and public housing recipients displaced by Katrina, as well as those formerly unassisted. Disaster Guidance (early Sept.)

HUD's Disaster Recovery Guidance for Multifamily Housing. Provides background on HUD's policy and procedure regarding disaster recovery efforts after a Presidentially declared disaster. Based on this notice, displaced residents may be moved to the top of the waiting list in Section 221(d) and Section 236 properties for permanent rental housing as long as the residents are FEMA certified as disaster victims. Recovery Guidance (issued Nov. 2004, expires Nov. 30, 2005)

On Sept. 9, HUD answered Katrina-related questions about the Disaster Recovery Guidance for Multifamily Housing here.

HUD granted waivers to the Public and Indian Housing programs through a notice published in the federal register on October 3. These 20 waivers are summarized by NLIHC here. On October 26, HUD issued a notice of regulatory and administrative waivers for Office of Public and Indian Housing (PIH) programs to assist with relief in the Hurricane Rita disaster area. It is similar to the October 3 waiver notice pertaining to Hurricane Katrina. [1]


Disaster Voucher Program

See also history of past KDHAP Program

On February 3, HUD issued a notice that the KDHAP program was replaced by the Disaster Voucher Program (DVP). A two-page summary of the program was prepared by NLIHC. The official HUD notice is PIH Notice 2006-12 where further details of the program can be found.

In response to a letter sent by NLIHC and other housing advocates concerning the application deadline for HUD’s Katrina Disaster Housing Assistance Program (KDHAP), Milan Ozdinec, HUD Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Housing and Voucher Programs, announced on January 20 that the KDHAP program will expire on January 31, and will be replaced by a new housing voucher program. No details are yet known about the so-called Disaster Supplemental Voucher Program.[2]


710,000 HUD assisted homes damaged

On September 27, HUD Deputy Secretary Roy Bernardi testified to Congress that there was damage to 710,000 HUD assisted units in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida. HUD has also joined with FEMA to establish the Joint Housing Solutions Center, located in Baton Rogue and led by Hank Williams, HUD Deputy Assistant Secretary for Mulitfamily Housing. This Center is “the central location for inter-agency housing coordination and planning,” said Mr. Bernardi.[3]


RHS, USDA and Other Federal Agencies

USDA's Rural Development/Rural Housing Service has announced a number of actions it is taking to help homeowners with RD loans and tenants in RD-financed buildings. (The difference between Rural Development and the Rural Housing Service can get confusing -- the Rural Housing Service is sort of part of Rural Development, so you can refer to the programs as USDA, RD, or RHS programs.)


Proposed Policies To Respond To The Disaster

Reports and studies issued by various groups also propose solutions to the disaster. These reports are included in Disaster Impact Reports on this page.


FEMA Proposals

On October 12, the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program reviews the condition of New Orleans before and after Hurricane Katrina. Included in the paper is an examination of the state of low income housing, how it evolved and Katrina’s impact. The paper concludes with policy recommendations to improve the situation and is available through the Brookings web site.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released recommendations to federal policy makers on September 9. CBPP Katrina Recommendations The CBPP web site continues to track Katrina related proposals.

Congressional Black Caucus Challenge President Bush to Aggressively Address Katrina Catastrophe and Poverty in America (9/15)


HUD, Congressional and Bush Administration Proposals

On October 28, the White House sent two requests to the House of Representatives concerning funding for hurricane recovery. The first request is to reallocate $17.1 billion of the $62.3 billion already appropriated by Congress for FEMA Katrina disaster relief. The second request was to rescind unobligated, previously appropriated funds from 55 “lower-priority” federal programs for a total of $2.3 billion to be dedicated to Katrina relief. Report from NLIHC, where more details are available.

On October 6, the House passed HR 3894[4], a bill authorizing HUD to waive certain statutory provisions of the Section 8 voucher and project-based programs in order to assist Katrina displacees. The provisions waived are different for the different programs. The bill will now be considered by the Senate.

On September 22, Louisiana Senators David Vitter (R) and Mary Landrieu (D) introduced S. 1765 and S. 1766, identical bills to address broad recovery efforts resulting from Hurricane Katrina. Section 301 of the bills, “Helping to House the Victims of Hurricane Katrina Act of 2005,” covers a variety of housing-related responses. The Louisiana House delegation will introduce similar legislation in a more piecemeal fashion in coordination with House leadership. See www.nlihc.org

On September 14, the Senate passed the Sarbanes Amendment [5]to the Commerce-Justice-State Appropriations bill to provide $3.5 billion for emergency housing vouchers to Katrina displacees. The bill has not yet been conferenced with the House.

The Bush Administration has proposed that vacant federal land be allocated through a lottery to prospective homesteaders.[6]


Federal Legislation Enacted in Response to the Disaster

Before adjourning at the end of 2005, Congress approved two major pieces of legislation that will impact housing assistance to families affected by hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. On December 16, Congress approved the Gulf Opportunity Zone Act of 2005, a package of provisions that includes increases in low-income housing tax credit funds, increased bond authority, and other tax benefits targeted to disaster areas. On December 30, the President also signed a bill that included a $29 billion spending reallocation package for hurricane relief. For a summary of these bills and pending Katrina-related legislation, see CBPP's memo, "Update on Congressional Action on Housing Funding and Hurricane-related Housing Assistance."