HUD, CDC prepare for pandemic hurricane season

Regulation | June 04, 2020 | by Juliana Bilowich

Federal agencies anticipate additional hurricane response challenges because of COVID-19; HUD asks housing providers to follow standard disaster response guidance until further notice.

The 2020 hurricane season began on June 1st, and experts project more frequent and more intense storms for this year’s five-month disaster season. With many parts of the country still grappling with the effects of COVID-19, hurricane preparedness is both different and more critical this year; HUD, the CDC, and FEMA have weighed in with preparation resources and responsibilities for housing providers.

HUD-Assisted Properties: Disaster Responsibilities

On June 4th, with an early season storm imminently scheduled for US landfall, HUD’s Multifamily Southwest Region issued a reminder to property managers and owners about their responsibilities during the hurricane season. The HUD update also reminds owners of responsibilities to both property and residents in the event of disaster-related damage or displacement.

“Because of the added concerns with the COVID-19 Pandemic, you should now be aware of the impact it has had on the ability of state emergency management organizations and non-profits (Red Cross, Salvation Army, etc.) to react and provide shelters for displaced residents,” says the HUD update. “Regardless [of federal COVID-19 guidance], properties should have a reaction plan that includes reporting to HUD any physical damage to a property interior or exterior.”

Serving Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas, the Southwest Region’s update instructs owners to continue following standard HUD disaster guidance until further notice.

HUD’s Multifamily Housing Guidance for Disaster Recovery (Chapter 38 of the HUD Handbook) outlines owner/agent responsibilities, including:

  • Developing a pre-disaster checklist that is shared with tenants in case f a disaster;
  • Applying for assistance with FEMA, Small Business Administration, Housing Finance Agency and others;
  • Contacting the local HUD office following a disaster;
  • Ensuring that residents provide EMERGENCY contact numbers;
  • Contacting the property’s insurance provider to apply for property and business interruption claims;
  • Tracking each displaced resident’s temporary location and maintain contact information for each displaced resident, particularly if the property will likely have units off-line for more than 30 days.

In addition to HUD disaster guidance, the Southwest Region also recommended housing provider review FEMA’s “reconstitution guidance” to help organizations reopen safely during COVID-19.

CDC Resources: 2020 Hurricane Season During COVID-19

On its 2020 hurricane preparedness webpage, the CDC says, “hurricane wait for no one and no virus.” In a May 27th webinar, the CDC discussed possible health risks that could come from hurricanes combined with COVID-19; planning for the 2020 hurricane season while adhering to guidance on social distancing; and how providers can effectively communicate messages to affected residents.

During the webinar, CDC officials discussed changes that make take effect for evacuation plans and shelters, and reminder providers to stay tuned into local disaster announcements. The webinar also stressed the importance of messaging with empathy for residents who are impacted by two disasters at the same time, and to overcome cultural barriers and health inequities in property communications.

When preparing communities and residents for a tropical storm or hurricane, the CDC notes that supplies may be out of stock due to the pandemic and to plan more time than usual for preparations. The officials also remind people in hurricane-affected areas to update their emergency “go bags” to include COVID-19 essentials, like masks and hand sanitizer.

Because of additional social distancing and other virus exposure precautions, housing providers are encouraged to update their emergency plans and resident contact methods.

FEMA: COVID-19 Pandemic Operational Guidance for the 2020 Hurricane Season

In late May, FEMA released COVID-19 Pandemic Operational Guidance for the 2020 Hurricane Season” to help emergency managers and public health officials best prepare for disasters, while continuing to respond to and recover from coronavirus.

According to FEMA’s press release, “although some aspects of FEMA’s program delivery are different this year, others remain the same. FEMA does not anticipate major changes in program eligibility, timeliness of grant awards, or level of assistance provided under the Individual and Households Program.”

FEMA is also hosting a series of webinars to allow emergency managers an opportunity to discuss how the guidance can assist jurisdictions review and modify their plans given the constraints and limitations of the ongoing pandemic:

  • Webinar 1: 1 - 2 p.m. ET on Monday, June 8
  • Webinar 2: 3 - 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday, June 10
  • Webinar 3: 6 - 7 p.m. ET on Thursday, June 11

LeadingAge will keep providers updated on guidance available for hurricane preparedness and response during COVID-19.