A Border Patrol agent searches a destroyed mobile home for survivors in the wake of Hurricane Harvey near Rockport, Texas, Aug. 27, 2017. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection photo by Glenn Fawcett)

Hurricane Harvey Housing Assistance Lacked Necessary Controls, OIG Finds

Due to the severity of multiple disasters in 2017, FEMA authorized Texas to administer direct housing assistance on its behalf. The DHS Office of Inspector General conducted an audit to determine the extent to which FEMA’s Intergovernmental Service Agreement (IGSA) with the Texas General Land Office (TxGLO) had processes and controls to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations and satisfaction of program objectives.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) IGSA with TxGLO was appropriate to ensure direct housing assistance program compliance with applicable laws and regulations. However, FEMA initiated the IGSA without first developing the processes and controls TxGLO needed to administer the program. Specifically:

  • FEMA did not have guidelines or identify specific roles and responsibilities TxGLO needed to carry out the program because FEMA did not engage stakeholders in preparedness planning and coordination prior to the disaster. As a result, FEMA and the State had to develop and finalize implementation guidelines after signing the IGSA, delaying TxGLO’s disaster response.
  • FEMA did not have guidance and training to help build State capabilities to administer disaster housing assistance, and available FEMA guidance did not have information on how states should implement direct housing assistance. As a result, FEMA disaster personnel had to prepare the necessary guidance, toolkits, and training resources while responding to Hurricane Harvey.
  • FEMA’s housing information system did not support all housing options or state-administered direct housing assistance due to a system design that did not address various housing options, as well as access challenges. As a result, FEMA used workarounds and TxGLO set up a separate system, creating additional operational challenges and inefficiencies.

FEMA should carefully consider and apply lessons learned from its IGSA with TxGLO to ensure more successful state-administered program outcomes in the future.

OIG made three recommendations to improve future state-administered direct housing assistance efforts. FEMA concurred with all three recommendations.

Read the OIG report

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