Read Texas Housers’ comments to FEMA on the efficiency and equity of their aid distribution

Comments by Julia Orduña

When the Biden Administration took office in January 2021, among the first executive orders issued from the new White House were Executive Order 13985, Executive Order 13990, and Executive Order 14008. These actions sought to examine our federal government’s approach to racial equity, public health, and the climate crisis at home and abroad.

In this spirit, FEMA has solicited comments on the efficiency and equity of their aid through a series of questions and Texas Housers has submitted our comments in full to the federal department.

We advise that FEMA repair both its Individual Assistance (IA) and Public Assistance (PA) programs, as the benefits are often administered in a manner “that discriminates both directly and through disparate racial impact against survivors and communities of color.” We have also seen FEMA PA funds misused when cities and states deny or steer away FEMA and HUD recovery and mitigation benefits from low-income communities of color. Thus denied equal access to federal FEMA benefits, far too many people of color and other marginalized populations have been forced to return to racially segregated, high disaster risk, disaster exposed areas that are unmitigated.

You can read our full comments embedded below, but to summarize, here are our four key recommendations:

  • Administer the FEMA IA program through a “trauma-informed” approach to meet the specific needs of low-income and marginalized survivors.
  • Correct policies and practices that unfairly deny benefits to two traditionally excluded populations: low income renters and very low-income homeowners.
  • Address the effect of residential racial segregation on the impacted population in a disaster and ensure that federal, state and city program administration includes actions to overcome the forced isolation of people of color and other impacted populations in undesirable neighborhoods.
  • Collect data on disaster impacted households and those receiving assistance to ensure federal benefits are equitably made available to people of color by FEMA, states and local governments.

We are encouraged by the Biden Administration and FEMA leadership’s eagerness to update and improve what has been historically been an unequal standard for communities of color in need of disaster recovery.

From the report:

We believe that in order to make true, meaningful change, true and meaningful actions must be taken. Texas Housers has been addressing FEMA policy issues since 2008. We hope this comment opportunity is the first step towards FEMA reforms that work to benefit those disaster survivors who too often are encounter discrimination and denial of assistance. We ask FEMA to consider meeting Texas Housers and other disaster advocates and impacted communities around the nation to have a more substantive and impactful conversation. We would also be happy to submit any and all research and recommendations Texas Housers has offered to the federal government in the past that relate to this matter.

Read Texas Housers’ FEMA Comments below


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