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EQUITABLE DISASTER RECOVERY MUST BE PRIORITIZED. With each major disaster the need to rebuild equitably and enhance resilience against future disaster grows all the more urgent, yet policies and recovery processes do not do nearly enough to ensure that low-income communities and communities of color are able to shape the process, access the resources they need to rebuild their lives, and proactively protect against future climate-related harm. Disaster and recovery spending disproportionately benefits white and wealthier Americans, widening existing inequalities, and climate change is projected to place millions more people at risk over the next decade. We must do better. Fair Share Housing Center has a strong foundation for work in disaster recovery, having secured the largest federal Fair Housing Act settlement in American history with the Latino Action Network and New Jersey State Conference of the NAACP, which resulted in reallocating over a half-billion dollars in federal funds to ensure fair and resilient rebuilding in the most impacted communities of color following Hurricane Sandy in 2012. We then successfully advocated for the first, and to date the only, interagency federal civil rights disaster recovery guidance coordinated by the Department of Justice. Our efforts to incorporate civil rights into disaster recovery and climate change policies focus on the following areas.

Reforms to Disaster Recovery Policy

We have worked closely with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as they develop revised guidance and processes that will change how billions of federal disaster relief dollars are allocated. In particular we are advocating for a more robust civil rights framework in HUD’s administrative practices, including expanding the requirements for resident input, incorporating funding allocations for renters and owners, establishing guidelines on housing versus infrastructure investments, providing the public with real-time data on program implementation, and developing a more representative methodology for determining need.

Transparency on Federal Disaster Data

Our work on data transparency supports our larger aim to reimagine current programs and investment priorities in disaster preparedness and recovery. We have successfully advocated for the public release of comprehensive demographic data on disaster impacts and recovery efforts from FEMA, enabling accountability on civil rights tracking of how federal disaster and climate money is spent as well as analysis on repetitive impacts on the same neighborhoods—helping us and communities throughout the country advocate for resiliency funding and mitigation investments.

Fieldbuilding and Collaboration

Our work would not be possible without strong partnerships with climate justice organizations on the ground that are committed to ensuring that policy changes nationally are both informed by lived experience and also implemented as intended.  In New Jersey, we work with grassroots partners including the NJ Thrives coalition to advocate for equitable rebuilding processes from major storms like Hurricane Ida and ensure that recovery dollars are spent where they are needed most.  We also collaborate closely with organizations in Puerto Rico and across the country to support transparency of federal disaster data and equitable recovery and mitigation processes.