By ASHRAF KHALIL – Associated Press
WASHINGTON, (AP) The Department of Housing and Urban Development issued new guidelines to guide the disbursal of $2 Billion in disaster relief block grants. This includes an emphasis on climate-change mitigation and equity in underserved communities.
Monday’s Federal Register publication of the new guidelines outlines specific priorities for state and local agencies receiving Community Development Block Grants.
Last year, the funds were used to help in disaster relief efforts in 10 states and territories. These include wildfires in California and a Michigan dam collapse, Hurricane Zeta in Mississippi and earthquakes and Tropical Storm Isaias at 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 tend to mostly destroy homes and buildings, while storms or hurricanes often cause the greatest damage to infrastructure like sewers and electricity grids.
HUD will retain most of this flexibility, but HUD now directs recipient agencies to prioritize long term environmental resilience and serving historically marginalized populations. These guidelines were widely expected. HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge mentioned these priorities when grants were announced in November 2021.
Fudge stated at the time that the disbursal would reflect President Joe Biden’s focus on climate justice in hard hit communities and “building long term and inclusive resilience to climate change impacts, particularly for marginalized and underserved communities.”
Michael Burns, a spokesperson for HUD, stated that the agency is trying to define underserved areas as areas that were economically damaged before the disaster, and populations that have been denied full participation in economic, civic, and social life.
All new construction that is funded by grants will have to conform to green standards. These standards emphasize energy efficiency, resilience and avoiding similar disasters down in the future.
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