The Department of Housing and Urban Development issued new guidelines to allow for the disbursal of $2Billion in disaster-relief grant block grants. There is an emphasis on climate-change mitigation and equity in underserved communities.
Monday’s Federal Register publication of the new guidelines outlines specific priorities for local and state agencies that receive Community Development Block Grants.
Last year, the funds were allocated to aid 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 are traditionally flexible for local authorities to use the funds in the best way possible, depending on the nature and severity 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 stated at the time that the funds would be disbursed to reflect President Joe Bidens focus on climate justice in hard hit communities and building long-term resilience to the impacts climate change. This was especially true for marginalized and underserved populations.
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.
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