GLO’s Bush Requests Direct Funding from HUD for Harris County Flood Mitigation

Tonight, Texas General Land Office (GLO) announced that it would support a direct allocation to Harris County from HUD Mitigation funds for $750 million.

On May 21, the GLO announced winners of US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grants totaling more than a billion dollars for Hurricane Harvey flood mitigation. Only problem: little went to Harris County Flood Control or the City of Houston despite the fact that we experienced half of the statewide damage in Harvey. Only $90.4 million went to small cities in Harris County. (See below)

Harvey at Peak Intensity

Ever since GLO’s announcement, Harris County Commissioners have been scrambling, trying to figure out how to fill a funding shortfall. That’s because they were counting on attracting matching grants that didn’t materialize. Without the grants, some of the projects could be delayed – especially those in low-to-moderate income neighborhoods, which HUD targets – until alternative sources of funding can be identified.

Yesterday’s Harris County Commissioner’s Court Meeting spent more than four hours on the dilemma. Commissioners arranged for angry residents to call in and each testify for 3 minutes. At the end of their allotted time, they were thanked and asked to call the Texas General Land Office (GLO).

The phones must have rung off the hook at the GLO today, because by the end of the day, GLO Commissioner George P. Bush punted the decision for the next round of funding to HUD.

Below is the full text of a GLO press release sent out at 6:28 PM this evening.

GLO Press Release

“Today, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush announced his request to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for Harris County to receive a direct allocation of $750 million for mitigation efforts.”   

“I have heard the overwhelming concerns of Harris County regarding the mitigation funding competition,” said Commissioner Bush. “The federal government’s red tape requirements and complex regulations are a hallmark of President Biden’s administration. I am no stranger to standing with the people of Texas as we fight against the federal government. As such, I have directed the GLO to work around the federal government’s regulations and allocate $750 million for mitigation efforts in Harris County.”  

“An amendment to the state action plan regarding the administration of Community Development Block Grants for Mitigation (CDBG-MIT) in the State of Texas will be submitted to HUD by the General Land Office to implement these changes. A final mitigation competition will be held for the other 48 eligible counties at a later date.”  

“Although Hurricane Harvey made landfall in August 2017 and Congress appropriated these mitigation funds several months thereafter, the GLO’s hands were tied waiting for HUD to publish the rules regulating the use of these funds until they were published in a Federal Register notice, which did not happen until August 30, 2019 – two years after the storm and 19 months after the appropriation. The scoring criterion required by HUD to be included in the state action plan for distribution of the funds was approved by HUD on March 27, 2020.”

Flood Mitigation Should be Non-Partisan

I don’t want to get in the middle of the cross-fire on this. One of my biggest concerns is that flood mitigation remain non-partisan.

So rather than speculate about people’s motives and try to decipher where things went awry, I will simply post the following documents:

Regarding the last item, the copy is from a draft circulated before the meeting. However, reportedly, Commissioners made no changes. They approved it (or something very close to it) unanimously.

Before the end of the meeting, Commissioners had also resolved to meet with the Governor, HUD, President Biden, Congressmen, Senators and the tooth fairy. One thing is certain. Harris County is not taking this lying down.

One strange thing that several people have commented on: approximately a quarter of all the grants awarded went to improve water and sewage treatment plants – not flood mitigation projects. As one Congressional aid said today, “Separate grants are available for those. That took a lot of money out of circulation.”

Projects Awarded within Harris County but Not to HCFCD

In fact, three of the four projects awarded to cities in Harris County fell into that category.

  • City of Pasadena: Flood Mitigation Project – $47,278,951.21 LMI Percentage: 65.37%
  • Jacinto City: Wastewater Treatment Plant Improvements Project – $5,319,717 LMI Percentage: 78.45%
  • City of Baytown: East District Wastewater Treatment Plant Phase II – $32,394,113.86 LMI Percentage: 52.29%
  • City of Galena Park: Water Plant Improvements Project – $5,482,123 LMI Percentage: 60.22%

Almost as much is going to water and wastewater plant improvements as flood mitigation.

Posted by Bob Rehak on May 26, 2021

1366 days after Hurricane Harvey