Every disaster is unique and unpredictable, and the ensuing recovery process must be tailored to the needs of the specific disaster and its location while complying with the regulations of the federal, state, and local governing agencies. Although approaches and implementation may differ, certain considerations are universal to the successful application of disaster recovery grants. The initial phase, Phase I – Preparation, is focused on the design and setup of the program, and the determination of award amounts. Once the award is established, Phase II – Operations, begins.

The first step of Phase I is to establish committees for each critical task to work concurrently and collaboratively. Committees should cover policy and procedure, Information Technology (IT) systems, outreach and intake, verification of benefits, and damage and environmental assessments. Policies should be designed to facilitate the initiation and completion of subsequent steps, with focus on tasks such as gathering complete eligibility information during in-take, choosing the optimal IT systems to capture and share information, and structuring awards and payouts to minimize repayment.

Once eligibility is completed and the award amount is determined, focus diverts to program management and applicant closeouts. Regardless of the strategy, every recovery program has an end goal and a time limit. Operations should be structured with the final objective in mind so that the applicant can manoeuvre and complete the process with as much ease as possible. Many of the specific actions will be determined by the desired outcome and award structure, such as the role of case managers and the scope of building and environmental regulations. Other activities are ubiquitous regardless of program design. For example, every program needs a process for managing award appeals and adjustments, and must comply with mandatory federal regulations including eligibility, nondiscrimination, environmental review, labor standards, and fair housing.

I. Phase I

a. Policy & Procedure

b. Information Technology Systems

c. Outreach & Intake

d. Verification of Benefits

e. Damage & Environmental Assessment

* Award Amount Determined *

II. Phase II

a. Case Management

b. Program Operations

c. Appeals and Adjustments

d. Closeout Finalized

Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery

Following a Presidentially declared disaster, Congress may direct funding to a specific recovery effort by approving a Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR). This program, administered by HUD, provides funds to the most impacted and distressed areas for disaster relief, long term-recovery, restoration of infrastructure and housing, and economic revitalization.

While short-term emergency assistance is available through other sources, such as FEMA and SBA, this legislation has allowed CDBG-DR funds to fill gaps in emergency-relief activities as well as long-term recovery goals. Since this mechanism permits funds to be directed to a broad range of recovery ac-tivities, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) can help communities and neighborhoods that otherwise might not recover due to limited resources. Since 1993, Congress has enacted the CDBG-DR program 32 times, allocating $30 billion to 27 states and 5 local governments.

This special appropriation provides flexible grants to help cities, counties, and states, especially in low-income areas, to rebuild after a natural or manmade disaster. Allowable activities must:

  • Address a disaster-related impact (direct or indirect) in a Presidentially-declared county for the covered disaster
  • Be a CDBG eligible activity (per regulations and waivers)
  • Meet a national objective (urgent need, low-to-moderate income, or prevention or elimination of slums or blight

Most CDBG requirements apply unless modified, waived, or supplanted by alternative requirements. CDBG Disaster Recovery Assistance is also subject to the requirements of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act).

Since CDBG-DR assistance may fund a broad range of recovery activities, HUD can help communities and neighborhoods that otherwise might not re-cover due to limited resources. CDBG-DR Program eligible activities that HUD has identified include the following:

• Acquisition of real property;

• Acquisition, rehabilitation and construction of public works and facilities;

• Buyouts;

• Code enforcement;

• Relocation assistance;

• New construction, reconstruction and rehabilitation of residential and nonresidential properties;

• New construction, reconstruction and rehabilitation of public housing;

• Repair or rehabilitation of infrastructure;

• Americans with Disabilities Act improvements;

• Rental assistance (limited);

• Storm mitigation measures;

• Special economic development including: grants and loans to SBA-defined small businesses, job training, and the revitalization of business districts;

• Fair housing counseling; and

• Homeownership counseling and assistance.

Taken from the Winsor Consult Group – Disaster Recovery Guide: A Best practice Guide for Disaster Recovery Programs – published Jan 2018. By James D Sohn and Michael Kuehn.