A growing chorus of high-ranking Texas officials is calling on the federal government to establish rules that will allow for the flow of $4.3 billion to the state for Hurricane Harvey recovery.
Texas has been waiting a year for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Office of Management and Budget to set guidelines for use of grant funds for projects meant to bolster storm resiliency in Harvey-impacted communities. State and local officials have emphasized the need to get moving on such initiatives before the next hurricane season, which begins in June.
Last week, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush — noting he had not received a response from then-OMB chief Mick Mulvaney, who is now President Donald Trump’s acting chief of staff — sent a strongly worded letter to the president asking him to intervene. The same day, Bush told the Texas Senate Finance Committee that the delay meant the General Land Office, which has overseen Harvey recovery, could not execute a "state action plan" dictating how the funds may be used.
And on Monday, Houston-area members of Congress spearheaded a letter asking OMB Acting Director Russell Vought for "expeditious approval of the rules at HUD that will define mitigation projects for CDBG [Community Development Block Grant] disaster recovery grants.”
The letter was signed by Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas’ two U.S. senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, along with the entire Houston congressional delegation and U.S. Rep. Michael Cloud of Victoria.
"Despite the collaboration between the GLO and HUD, the rules have not yet been published in the Federal Register," wrote the Texas officeholders. "As a result, the GLO has been significantly delayed in drafting a State Action Plan for the funds, the critical next step at the state level before the grants can begin to flow.”
Texas has already received billions of dollars for Harvey recovery, but each bucket of money is designated for a specific purpose. The $4.3 billion that Congress approved for Texas on Feb. 9 of last year is part of a HUD grant program designed "to help cities, counties, and States recover from Presidentially declared disasters, especially in low-income areas."