Eight months after Hurricane Harvey, the Texas General Land Office has released its plan to distribute $5 billion in federal block grants for disaster relief.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development allocated the grant in November, and now that the GLO has submitted their action plan for the funds, it's open for a two-week public comment period. After that, HUD has to approve the plan before funds can be distributed. According to GLO press secretary Brittany Eck, this approval process has taken months in the past, but the GLO is doing everything it can to expedite it.
"The impact of Hurricane Harvey continues to disrupt the lives of so many Texans," Land Commissioner George P. Bush said in a written statement. "As we continue the long-term recovery process, the GLO's Community Development and Revitalization team continues to work with local officials in all 49 affected counties to expedite the release of disaster recovery funds."
HUD required 80 percent of the money to be allocated to 11 of the most distressed areas, including Harris, Galveston and Aransas counties. Houston is the only city to be awarded a portion of the money: just over $1 billion, which the city can spend on recovery programs with the GLO’s oversight.
The disaster aid has been a big point of contention between Land Commissioner Bush and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. For months, the two publicly sparred over whether Houston was being included in drafting the action plan. Eventually, the agencies involved decided to give grant money to both Harris County and Houston.
The plan allocates the $5 billion to eight different programs that the GLO will administer and oversee. The largest allocation of $1.4 billion will go to the Single Family Homeowner Assistance program, which aims to help homeowners with rehabilitation and reconstruction after Harvey.
The other programs are:
- Buyouts and Acquisitions ($275 million): Eligible homeowners may sell their home to a local government at a pre-storm or post-storm fair market value.
- Homeowner Reimbursement ($100 million): Homeowners may be reimbursed for certain out-of-pocket expenses incurred for home repairs, including reconstruction, rehabilitation or mitigation, up to $50,000.
- Homelessness Prevention ($50 million): Provides assistance such as short-term mortgage, utility payment and tenant-based rental assistance.
- Affordable Rental ($250 million): Provides funding for rehabilitation, reconstruction and new construction of affordable multi-family housing projects.
- Local Infrastructure ($413 million): Pays for infrastructure repairs and enhancements for local communities as part of a comprehensive long-term recovery program.
- Economic Revitalization ($100 million): Offers interim assistance to small businesses through loans in exchange for job creation or retention.
- Local, Regional and State Planning ($137 million): The GLO will conduct planning studies on disaster mitigation in the impacted areas to promote sound long-term recovery.
Disclosure: The General Land Office has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.
Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban development allocated the funds in November and to more clearly explain the action plan approval process.