On May 17, 2018, SP Group attended the House Financial Services Committee (Oversight and Investigations) hearing entitled “Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery Program – Stakeholder Perspectives”. It was a one-panel hearing with the following witnesses:
Stephen Costello, Chief Resilience Officer, City of Houston
The Honorable, Rodney Ellis, Commissioner, Harris County, Texas
Heather Lagrone, Deputy Director, Texas General Land Office
Carlos Martín, Senior Fellow, Urban Institute
Marion Mollegen-McFadden, VP, Enterprise Community Partners, Inc.
The testimonies discussed current challenges that may exist in the program's design, as well as actions Congress might consider to increase both the accountability and legitimate outcomes of appropriated CDBG-DR funds. The following are the key take aways from the hearing:
1. The witnesses from Texas expressed the need to waive the 70% MID requirement or allow a decrease to 50%
CDBG-DR funds come with the requirement that 70% of the funding will be spent in pre-determined "Most Impacted and Distressed" (MID) areas. Heather Lagrone expressed that the 70% requirement impedes a holistic recovery because there are many people who suffered damage who do not live in the MID areas. Marion Mollegen McFadden expressed in her testimony that tax payer dollars should be allocated to those who are most vulnerable.
2. A push for more direct allocation
Almost all of the witnesses expressed that direct allocation, to municipalities with the capacity, would make for a more efficient funding process. Honorable Rodney Ellis stated that there is often slow approval from the state which slows down the process significantly.
3. Codify CDBG-DR Program
All witnesses agreed that the CDBG-DR program should become a permanent statute of law. This would speed up the process of allocating the CDBG-DR funds, as well as ensure that the requirements do not change from disaster to disaster so municipalities can know exactly what to expect. Additionally, by codifying CDBG-DR, HUD could appropriately staff the program and obtain resources for technical assistance and capacity building. Inadequate staffing was highlighted by McFadden as a significant bottleneck. She stated that the program is currently supported by a staff of less than 20 at HUD.