Black Americans in the Deep South are often unjustly denied emergency disaster relief
Washington, D.C. –– U.S. Senators Jon Ossoff (D-GA) and Tim Scott (R-SC) are leading a bipartisan push to reform Federal policies that discriminate against Black victims of natural disasters.
In a letter to U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Sens. Ossoff and Scott called for reform of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) policies to ensure Black Americans are not unjustly denied disaster relief.
Sens. Ossoff and Scott wrote, “[We] urge you to direct FEMA to review and revise its regulations for individual assistance to account for the fact that current documentation requirements can create impassable barriers that disproportionately impact Black property owners and disaster victims.”
Sens. Ossoff and Scott cited recent reporting by The Washington Post detailing how FEMA’s regulations and procedures have historically discriminated against Black property owners, leading to generations of poverty and wealth inequality.
Due to historic discrimination, especially in the South, Black victims of natural disasters are at times unable to demonstrate clear title to property they have inherited or currently own and are then unjustly ruled ineligible for disaster assistance.
Reporting found that “more than a third of Black-owned land in the South is passed down informally, rather than through deeds and wills … When land is handed down like this, it becomes heirs’ property, a form of ownership in which families hold property collectively, without clear title.”
This makes it harder to apply for FEMA individual assistance after disasters, as homeowners unable to prove clear title of property are often denied the economic relief.
“[We are] deeply concerned that current regulations and procedures have a disproportionate negative impact on Black property owners, who due to historic discrimination, especially in the South, are at times unable to demonstrate clear title to property which they have inherited and do indeed own, and who therefore are ruled ineligible for disaster assistance which they need and should rightly receive,” the Senators wrote in their letter.
Please find a copy of the letter here.
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