A bi-partisan amendment sponsored by Dan Crenshaw and approved in the U.S. House of Representatives would provide $45 million to resolve “duplication-of-benefits” issues that continue to dog more than 1000 Texans stemming from Hurricane Harvey. However, the bill has not yet been taken up in the Senate. Pleas for help to Senators Cruz and Cornyn by Hurricane Harvey flood victims have not resulted in action.
At issue: whether those who are eligible for grants, but who received SBA loans, should be allowed to use grants to pay back loans. The government permitted this after Katrina and wants to permit it for Harvey victims, but 961 days after the storm, the Senate has still not voted on Crenshaw’s amendment that would enable it.
Duplication of Benefits or Duplication of Disasters?
Many Harvey victims who would qualify for grants took out loans to restore their homes more quickly. The government counts both grants and loans equally in terms of aid. But the loans must be repaid. That places a large burden on low-income families, retired people, and those who have become unemployed due to the corona virus.
Imagine you were retired, then flooded during Harvey. You’re living on social security and savings. For the sake of illustration, let’s say you had damage totaling $100,000. You got a grant of $20,000 and took out an SBA loan for $80,000 to repair your home. Then you came out of retirement and found another job to pay back the loan. But your employer laid you off when the virus hit.
When you took out the loan, you were told that it would not count against you if additional grants became available later. But it did. When you applied for the second grant to help pay back the loan, they told you it would count as a “duplication of benefits.”
Trying to Untangle Web of Bureaucracy
As you investigate the problem, you discover that Congress did not intend the SBA loans to count as a duplication of benefits. The President agreed. And HUD issued rulings saying they weren’t. But the General Land Office and City of Houston (the entities actually distributing the grants) still consider you ineligible.
Why? They don’t have enough money to cover people in your category. Why? Because the Senate has not acted on Crenshaw’s amendment. When you write your Senators, you get polite form letters back, but no action.
Will this problem be fixed? Will the Senate ever act? Probably not. The government is so consumed with the corona crisis that it has forgotten about the Harvey crisis. Meanwhile, the victims of BOTH are forgotten.
How You Can Help Forgotten Ones
If you think this is unfair, please email your Senators. They respond to public pressure.
Please take a few minutes.
- Ask your senators to sponsor “the Crenshaw-Fletcher Amendment for HUD appropriations to supplement Harvey Housing.”
- Emphasize that loans are being classified as “benefits” to deny people who would otherwise be eligible to receive grants.
- Loans weren’t considered a duplication of benefits after Katrina, but they are for Harvey.
- Congress, the President and HUD don’t want loans to be a duplication of benefits.
- Constituents are being doubly hurt by a “duplication of disasters”: Inaction over the duplication of benefits issue and unemployment due to the virus.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/16/2020
961 Days after Hurricane Harvey