Federal housing officials announced Friday what they called “another down payment” — an additional $57.8 million — to support long-term recovery efforts from Hurricane Harvey in Texas.
The new funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is separate from the state’s yet-to-be-determined share of the $7.4 billion in HUD disaster recovery dollars Congress appropriated in September. Federal housing officials are currently deciding how to divide that sum among the U.S. states and territories hit by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. It is unclear how long it that will take.
"We are literally poring over this information right now with the hope that we can allocate that $7.4 billion as quickly as possible. The challenge of course is that data don’t become available immediately,” said Neal Rackleff, the department's assistant secretary for community planning and development, who added that there was still “virtually no” damage assessment available for Puerto Rico.
The $57.8 million will go to Texas as early as mid-December. The state will then administer the grants at the local level. This process will allow money to reach families in need faster than if it went directly to county or city governments, Rackleff said, because the state already has an action plan in place.
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Rackleff said the federal housing department had identified 13 Texas counties where housing needs were going unmet by either private insurance or various sources of federal aid. Those needs were “especially severe” in Harris, Galveston, and Jefferson counties.
The federal housing funds, which are a specialized form of community block development grants aimed at disaster recovery, can go toward rebuilding houses, businesses, roads, other buildings and infrastructure. But Rackleff said federal officials hoped the money would primarily go toward housing.
"While these funds can support a variety of recovery activities,” he said, “we believe and would strongly encourage the state of Texas to use these resources in a manner that helps families with their housing needs."