In Harvey's Wake

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*Correction appended.

WASHINGTON — Nearly all of the Texas congressional delegation and Gov. Greg Abbott sent a letter Thursday afternoon to senior members of Congress calling for $18.7 billion in new funding to support Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts. 

In September, President Donald Trump signed into law a short-term, $15.25 billion measure to address the immediate emergency in the state and in Florida, which suffered serious damage from Hurricane Irma. 

"Texas greatly appreciates the appropriations committees’ efforts to swiftly provide funds," this week's letter stated.

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"However, in light of the unprecedented damage from Hurricane Harvey and the historically epochal flooding of Houston, Beaumont and surrounding regions, we all recognize that the funding already appropriated is a small fraction of the federal resources needed to help rebuild Texas and reinvigorate the American economy." 

To give a sense of the scale of the need in Texas, state officials predict a recovery will cost $60 billion in federal support — from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development alone. 

The Texans addressed the letter to the leaders of the appropriations committees in both chambers: U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Mississippi, U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-New Jersey, and U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey, D-New York.

The letter requests $10 billion for projects by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and $300 million for Economic Development Administration grants, both of which would help construct preventive infrastructure for future storms.

Additional funding would also be used to redevelop businesses and state infrastructure damaged during the hurricane, with $800 million going to rebuild educational institutions and $150 million for transportation infrastructure, according to the letter. An additional $7 billion would go toward Community Development Block Grants and $450 million for disaster loans for businesses, homeowners, renters and nonprofits.

The delegation is going to great lengths to show a united front. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn's office released a photo on Wednesday of more than a dozen members meeting in his U.S. Capitol office. 

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However, three Texas GOP House members out of the 38-member delegation did not sign on: U.S. Reps. Joe Barton of Ennis, Kevin Brady of The Woodlands and Jeb Hensarling of Dallas.

“I fully support Governor Abbott, and am especially appreciative of [Texas A&M University System Chancellor John] Sharp’s outreach to our county and community leaders," stated Brady, a close ally of GOP House leadership.

"Having led Hurricane Rita recovery efforts in Congress for Texas – and last week secured $5 billion in immediate disaster tax relief for our communities – I’m working to better understand the complete long-term rebuilding needs of our state and how each installment of federal funding fits into it.”  

Barton generally supports the letter, according to spokesman Daniel Rhea.

"Traditionally, Rep. Barton does not sign onto letters to his colleagues who he can speak with in person," Rhea said. "As co-chairman of the Harvey Task Force, he is focused on long-term solutions for natural disasters and how we can help Texans get the aid they need." 

Hensarling is working on his own letter to encourage more federal aid to Texas, spokeswoman Stami Williams wrote in an email.

"He supports more relief for Texas and expects to work with his colleagues to assure that it is forthcoming and used effectively," Williams said.

*Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran's title.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • State officials estimate that it will take $60 billion in long-term federal funds to repair and replace the houses, buildings and infrastructure Harvey damaged. [Full story]

  • It could be months, if not years, before southeast Texans receive federal funds to pay for the long-term rebuilding and recovery of homes and communities battered by Hurricane Harvey’s epic rains, officials told legislators. [Full story]

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