May didn’t end soon enough for storm-battered Oklahoma.
Tornado after tornado hit the state, leaving at least 40 people dead and buildings turned to rubble.
A devastating EF5 twister, the strongest classification for a tornado, swept through El Reno on May 31, closing out the deadly month. Twenty were reported dead in the area as of press time. Earlier in the month, a big tornado swept through Moore, an Oklahoma City suburb, killing another two dozen people.
Almost 4,000 homes and businesses have been damaged or destroyed across the state.
Many efforts were under way to help the region, including making vacant apartment units available to storm victims.
In one move, the Internal Revenue Service suspended certain rules to allow low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) developments to be used to shelter victims of the Oklahoma tornadoes. The action lifts the income restrictions on the apartments, opening the door for LIHTC property owners to use vacant units to temporarily house residents displaced by the storms.
After the initial round of storms, Shaun Donovan, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), announced that the agency will speed federal disaster assistance to Oklahoma in addition to resources being provided by other federal partners.
Donovan reinforced an existing Federal Housing Administration (FHA) policy that mortgage lenders should release insurance payments to homeowners rather than applying these funds toward outstanding mortgage debt.
Among other steps, HUD was granting a 90-day moratorium on foreclosure and forbearance on foreclosures of FHA-insured home mortgages.
The agency also noted that its Community Development Block Grant and HOME programs give the state and communities the flexibility to redirect millions of dollars to address disaster relief, including housing and services for victims.