George P. Bush, commissioner Texas General Land Office

HUD Approves $750 Million to Harris County for Flood Mitigation

Today, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) approved the Texas General Land Office’s (GLO) amended plan for Community Development Block Grant Mitigation (CDBG-MIT). The amended plan allocates $750 million in funding for Harris County and an $488 million to the Houston-Galveston Area Council for additional mitigation projects in the region. The funds allocated to the county should now mean that the 2018 flood bond is fully funded, if numbers provided last month on partner funding to date are accurate.

George P. Bush Quote on Process

According to a press release issued by the GLO at 7PM, 3/18/22, “Ensuring Texans receive disaster recovery and mitigation funding in a timely manner to recover from Hurricane Harvey has always been my top priority,” said GLO Commissioner Bush. “The Biden Administration’s politically weaponized Department of Urban Development and Housing has forced us to fight through mazes of red tape to secure this direct allocation for Houstonians. I will continue to fight to send money to Texans as quickly as possible. The $750 million allocation will go directly to Harris County for projects that help mitigate future flooding events, creating a stronger more resilient Texas.”

George P. Bush, Commissioner, Texas General Land Office, 2019 photo

$1.138 Billion Total

HUD’s approval of the latest Harvey Action Plan brings the total infrastructure and mitigation investments in Harris County to more than $1.1 billion. HUD’s approval of the GLO’s plan to provide $750,000,000 to Harris County is in addition to HUD’s direct allocation of $61,884,000 to the City of Houston, plus $117,213,862.96 in CDBG-MIT awards for Harris County projects, plus $209,221,800 in infrastructure funds from CDBG-DR, equals $1,138,319,662.96 in total investment in projects within Harris County. Additionally, H-GAC continues to develop its method of distribution on more than $488 million for mitigation projects within the greater Houston region.

Bush first requested a direct allocation for Harris County in May of 2021 after the county received very little money from the first round of competition for HUD. A direct allocation would have allowed Harris County to work directly with HUD and taken the GLO out of the loop. However, HUD reportedly insisted that the GLO remain involved. Subsequently, the GLO developed a 650-page action plan for the $750 million. However, HUD found it insufficient. As of early this week, the action plan exceeded 1000 pages, according to a GLO spokesperson. That apparently provided HUD what it needed. HUD notified the GLO in a letter received after 5PM today.

Method of Distribution Must Still be Developed

However, Harris County won’t get all the money immediately.

Since last November, H-GAC has been developing something called a MOD (Method of Distribution) for its allocation. However, according to the GLO, because of the expense involved, Harris County has delayed developing its MOD until the the award was approved by HUD.

Harris County’s next step will be to develop its MOD which describes where the money will go, how it will be used, and who will get it. GLO will review that and forward it to HUD. After HUD approves the MOD, HUD still won’t write a check for $750 million to the county. The money will be reimbursed to the county in batches as it is spent on approved projects.

Flood Bond Close to Fully Funded Even without Resilience Trust

Still, this will go a long way toward fulfilling the potential shortfall in partner funding for the Harris County Flood Bond. Of the original $5 billion bond, half is being paid for by Harris County taxpayers. The County hoped to get local, state, and federal partners to fund the other half.

Last July, when it looked like the $750 million might not materialize, Harris County Commissioners approved a Flood Resilience Trust that committed $833 million from the Toll Road Authority and other Harris County sources of funding. That, along with partner funding already committed, was enough to keep construction of Harris County Flood Bond projects rolling through approximately 2026.

From a presentation to the Harris County Community Flood Resilience Task Force in February 2022.

Today’s approval should make the flood bond fully funded if the numbers above are accurate. That should come as good news for all citizens who have been fighting for limited dollars. With money in the trust, this should accelerate mitigation projects throughout the county. And even fund some not identified in the original bond!

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/18/2022

1662 Days since Hurricane Harvey