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Monday, June 14, 2010

Mortgage and Rental Assistance as Disaster Relief: Legislation in the 111th Congress

Francis X. McCarthy
Analyst in Emergency Management Policy

During the first session of the 111th Congress, Representative Oberstar, along with co-sponsors Representative Mica, Representative Holmes-Norton, and Representative Mario Diaz-Balart introduced H.R. 3377, the Disaster Response, Recovery and Mitigation Enhancement Act of 2009. Along with other provisions, the legislation would reinstate a Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (P.L. 93-288, as amended) provision that provided mortgage and rental assistance to disaster victims. Previously, Senators Feinstein and Boxer had introduced S. 2386, the Mortgage and Rental Disaster Relief Act of 2007. Mortgage and Rental Assistance (MRA) had been dropped from the Stafford Act by P.L. 106-390, the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 (DMA2K).

MRA provided economic aid to help households remain in their residences by assisting with mortgage or rent payments for a period of up to eighteen months. This is distinct from temporary housing assistance under the Stafford Act that provides rental assistance due to disaster damage that makes a residence uninhabitable. For MRA help, the applicant had to prove a loss of income due to the disaster event.

The MRA provision in H.R. 3377 is similar to the original Stafford Act language in providing such emergency help for up to 18 months. However, the new proposed provision emphasizes eligibility based on "imminent risk" rather than "written notice." An earlier Senate bill to reauthorize MRA, S. 2386, differed from the original Stafford MRA provision in that it established eligibility based on an income threshold in order for an applicant to qualify for the proposed MRA assistance.

This report summarizes the previous MRA provision administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the issues that were a part of the discussion prior to its removal in P.L. 106- 390, and questions that have been raised since 2000 regarding mortgage and rental assistance.

Date of Report: June 3, 2010
Number of Pages: 9
Order Number: RS22828
Price: $29.95

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