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Don’t hold your breath waiting for federal Harvey recovery money

Settle in for the long haul.

It could be months, if not years, before southeast Texans and scores of counties and cities receive federal funds to pay for the long-term rebuilding and recovery of homes and communities battered by Hurricane Harvey’s epic rains.

Federal Emergency Management Agency money for short-term relief like debris removal and some house repairs is already flowing to people and government agencies. But state lawmakers were told Monday that Housing and Urban Development disaster relief funds, which includes money for extensive home repairs or rebuilds, could take seven to 32 months to work their way through bureaucratic processes and several layers of government agencies.

“It could be some time,” Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush told the House Urban Affairs Committee.

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People affected by disasters receive HUD disaster relief funds, which are distributed as grants from various government agencies and non-profits. Before the government agencies can disperse the money, they must develop an action plan that HUD approves. The public must also have a chance to comment on the plan, a process that can take 30 to 60 days. Texas officials have asked that time period be reduced to seven days.

State officials told lawmakers that immediate FEMA payments are for homes that are up to 50 percent damaged. Long-term HUD disaster relief funds cover homes damaged beyond that threshold, they said.

Beth Van Duyne, the regional HUD administrator for Texas and four other states, said the agency is working to fast-track all processes.

“What we’re trying to do is make those time periods in between as tight as possible, realizing people need help today,” she said in an interview with The Texas Tribune last month.

The funds also come with certain limitations on how they can be spent and who should receive them. Congress approved $7.4 billion in HUD disaster relief funds last month. But that may have to be shared with Florida and Puerto Rico, which have each been hit by hurricanes in the weeks after Harvey battered Texas, unless legislators approve another aid package.

State officials said it could be November before HUD releases allocations and the stipulations on how such funds can be spent. From there, the state’s General Land Office plans to work with metropolitan planning organizations to develop disbursement plans and determine how to divvy money up across such a wide swath of the state.

Part of the deliberateness is just that you need to know who needs how much for what. You want funds to go to those who need them, so you have to do some due diligence. That’s one reason why it’s necessary to have funding from multiple sources, including the state, since different agencies and commissions and whatnot can attack various aspects of the overall need. In the meantime, we’re asking for more from the feds, and we’re going to need that and still more beyond it. It’s not just the things that need to be rebuilt, it’s people’s lives. So much of that is harder to see up front, but we’ll see the effects of it for years, if not generations.

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5 Comments

  1. I have an employee who left and went to work for FEMA. He is inspecting houses all day everyday seven days a week. Money is flowing faster from FEMA then it is from all the Money donated to the HARVEY victims that is still sitting in bank accounts. Its amazing how Republicans and Democrats can agree that when you get millions for HARVEY RELIEF it should go to non-profits months after HARVEY made land fall. I say put the money directly into the hands of the people. Make an application process and issue checks.

  2. One more thing:

    Think about it. If we put $40,000,000 dollars directly into the hands of the people who need it. Think about the economic boom that would give Houston. They would put that money into circulation immediately.

  3. neither here nor there says:

    Here it is 42 days after I reported the flooding to my home and I still have no idea what FEMA will offer as to the amount of damages, I have flood insurance. State Farm took less than 2 weeks to determine that my vehicle was total and settle the claim.

    As far as I know no one in my neighborhood who has insurance has been informed as to the amount of damage, this are people with flood insurance.

  4. I got an email asking me to rate my damages. I gave it a 1. The number I gave it meant I was last. You have flood insurance. I don’t know but I am pretty sure your are not getting any money form FEMA. I was also able to check my status on-line. I suggest you check your status on line. FEMA and SBA have both already been in contact with me. Good luck NEITHER.

  5. neither here nor there says:

    SBA was good they offered a loan of 158,000 but I would rather get the insurance money that I am entitled to. Been paying flood insurance for nearly 40 years.

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