WASHINGTON – The Biden administration is allocating nearly $3 billion in disaster relief funding to cover recovery efforts by multiple state and local governments.
The Community Development Block Grants, announced Tuesday, include $2.2 billion to 10 local governments and 13 state governments for 16 major disasters that took place in 2021. These include wildfires in California and Colorado, ice storms in Texas, and damage wrought by Hurricane Ida in multiple states from Louisiana to New Jersey.
An additional $723 million is being sent to five previously announced recipients of disaster relief grants for incidents dating back to 2020 — including Hurricane Sally in Alabama and Florida, and Hurricane Zeta in Mississippi. The extra money, according to a statement from HUD, will cover a “higher level of need than previously calculated for disasters in those states.”
Tuesday's announcements finish the original $5 billion in disaster relief funding provided by Congress last year. Marcia Fudge, secretary of the Department of Housing and Development, said in a statement that the new allocations "will strengthen recovery efforts and improve long-term, inclusive resilience to future disasters and climate impacts.”
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear expressed gratitude for the nearly $75 million his state will receive to cover damage from flooding and a string of tornadoes.
“After two years of devastating tornadoes, flooding and ice storms, we are looking forward to seeing how this funding can help make an impact in our long-term recovery efforts,” Beshear said in a statement.
Under guidance issued by HUD in January, the state and local agencies receiving the block grants are instructed to prioritize climate-change mitigation and equity for underserved communities in deciding how to disperse those funds.
These block grants traditionally come with a great deal of flexibility for local authorities and recipient agencies to decide where best to target the funds depending on the nature of the disaster. For example, wildfires tend to largely destroy buildings and residences, while storms and hurricanes often do the most damage to infrastructure like bridges, sewers and electrical grids.
Most of that flexibility remains, but HUD is now directing recipient agencies to prioritize long-term environmental resilience and serving traditionally marginalized populations.
All new construction funded by the grants will need to be built to green standards that emphasis energy efficiency and resilience against similar disasters down the line.
“Communities will have greater resources and focus to ensure equitable outcomes for underserved households that too often bear the brunt of climate-related disasters," Fudge said. "With these funds, we are sending a strong message that equity and forward-looking mitigation are priorities of HUD and this administration’s disaster recovery work.”