In the last 24 hours, Coloradans have gained a more clear picture of the kind of aid the Obama administration and federal authorities will offer to help address the wildfires raging in the state and aid displaced residents.
Colorado representatives in Washington over the last week have pressed for federal assistance as major fires raged in El Paso and Larimer Counties along the Front Range, and today Pres. Obama declared the two counties disaster areas, releasing funds to state authorities to set up temporary housing and clean up debris-strewn areas and scorched buildings.
Also today, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced it has loosened restrictions on program spending so that local authorities can use HUD cash where it is needed to best provide shelter and services in disaster zones. The Department is also offering foreclosure relief to fire-affected homeowners and loan and down-payment guarantees for the many Coloradans who will have to rebuild or buy new homes.
From a release sent out by HUD this morning detailing its plan:
Ø Offering the State of Colorado and other entitlement communities the ability to re-allocate existing federal resources toward disaster relief – HUD’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME programs give the State and communities the flexibility to redirect millions of dollars to address critical needs, including housing and services for disaster victims. HUD is currently contacting State and local officials to explore streamlining the Department’s CDBG and HOME programs in order to expedite the repair and replacement of damaged housing;
Ø Granting immediate foreclosure relief – HUD granted a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures and forbearance on foreclosures of Federal Housing Administration (FHA)-insured home mortgages;
Ø Making mortgage insurance available – HUD’s Section 203(h) program provides FHA insurance to disaster victims who have lost their homes and are facing the daunting task of rebuilding or buying another home. Borrowers from participating FHA-approved lenders are eligible for 100 percent financing, including closing costs;
Ø Making insurance available for both mortgages and home rehabilitation – HUD’s Section 203(k) loan program enables those who have lost their homes to finance the purchase or refinance of a house along with its repair through a single mortgage. It also allows homeowners who have damaged houses to finance the rehabilitation of their existing single-family home; and
Ø Offering Section 108 loan guarantee assistance – HUD will offer state and local governments federally guaranteed loans for housing rehabilitation, economic development and repair of public infrastructure.
Ø Information on housing providers and HUD programs -The Department will share information with FEMA and the State on housing providers that may have available units in the impacted counties. This includes Public Housing Agencies and Multi-Family owners. The Department will also connect FEMA and the State to subject matter experts to provide information on HUD programs and providers.
President Obama is touring the Waldo Canyon disaster area in El Paso County above Colorado Springs today.[ Image via the U.S. Navy of the Waldo Canyon fire burning at the south end of the U.S. Air Force Academy. ]