The educational and community support organization Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico asked the local Housing Department to adopt protocols that allow people without formal property titles to their homes to benefit from programs with CDBG-DR funds.
The entity, in a statement, urged the Housing Department to accept the declaration form under oath so that those eligible without formal titles can prove to be owners of their homes and access the funds.
This ensures that the most needy have the greatest access to funds for recovery after the disaster and prevents thousands of people from running out of needed help to repair their homes.
FEMA denied 62% of the applications and 80% of the appeals filed.
Nearly 70,000 people did not receive assistance for lack of title documents despite owning their homes, which, according to the statement, demonstrates the urgency of adopting the declaration under oath as an alternative to the title test.
Legal Aid, along with other entities, designed the statement and led the process to require FEMA to accept this statement when there is no formal title.
Federal legislation is clear in ensuring that a person does not need to have a title to access funds to repair their homes after the disaster.
The Texas experience around CDBG-DR funds demonstrates that this statement can be adapted to apply for this assistance to people without formal qualifications.
Legal Aid prepared a legal investigation and the models that the Housing Department would need to implement this statement in CDBG-DR.
“Two months later, we have not received a response, we have not found protocols on alternative tests for the title, without a uniform document, the history of FEMA will be repeated and thousands will be left without help and this money will not benefit those who need to repair their homes. “said Ariadna Michelle Godreau-Aubert, Legal Aid Director.
“We want to assure the communities a fair and efficient recovery process, and the declaration form will ensure that more people can benefit from this money and finally get their houses repaired, communities do not deserve any more obstacles,” he said.
After the hurricanes Irma and María, about 20,000 million dollars were allocated in CDBG-DR funds for the recovery of the communities affected by the disasters.
These funds must be used to meet the uncovered housing, infrastructure and economic recovery needs of vulnerable populations.