WASHINGTON (AP), The Department of Housing and Urban Development released new guidelines for disbursal of $2Billion in disaster-relief grant block grants. They place a strong emphasis on climate change mitigation and equity for those communities that are least served.
The Federal Register published the new guidelines Monday, which outline specific priorities for state and local agencies receiving Community Development Block Grants.
The funds were used last year to assist in relief efforts for natural disasters that occurred in 2020 in 10 US states and territories. These include wildfires, a collapse of a dam in California, Hurricane Zeta, Mississippi, and earthquakes, as well as Tropical Storm Isaias, Puerto Rico.
Block grants have traditionally been flexible enough for local authorities and recipients to choose where to direct the funds based on the nature of the disaster. Wildfires are known to destroy large numbers of buildings and homes, while hurricanes and storms can cause the most severe damage to infrastructure such as bridges, sewers, and electrical grids.
HUD will preserve most of the flexibility, but HUD has now directed recipient agencies to prioritise long-term environmental resilience as well as serving historically marginalized communities. These guidelines were expected and Marcia L. Fudge, HUD Secretary, spoke of them when grants were first announced in December 2021.
Fudge said at the time that the disbursal of the funds would reflect President Joe Biden’s emphasis on addressing climate justice in hard-hit communities, and “building long-term and inclusive resilience to the impacts of climate change, particularly for underserved and marginalized communities.
Michael Burns, spokesperson for HUD, said that the agency defines underserved communities to be areas that were economically disadvantaged before the disaster and populations that have been systematically denied the opportunity to participate fully in economic, social and civic life.
All new construction funded through grants must be built according to green standards, which emphasize energy efficiency and resilience to similar disasters in the future.