Tag Archive for: George P. Bush

General Land Office Launches Disaster Preparedness Campaign

The Texas General Land Office (GLO) has launched a disaster preparedness campaign called “Don’t Ignore Your Risk.” GLO developed the new outreach initiative to encourage Texans to prepare for hurricane season and stay prepared. The season began Wednesday, June 1, and runs through November 30, 2022.

“Don’t Ignore Your Risk”

The disaster preparedness campaign includes a series of video advertisements in English and Spanish. They urge Texans to take time now to:

  • Know their risk
  • Purchase flood insurance
  • Protect their home
  • Safeguard documents
  • Prepare emergency supplies
  • Map an evacuation route.

Most Homeowner Insurance Policies Don’t Cover Flooding

GLO produced a series of twelve short videos that you can watch and share on YouTube from this page. They’re powerful, poignant and compelling. Each makes a simple point about the value of preparedness. And each underscores the value of flood insurance.

Kickoff commercial in English or Spanish.

“Be prepared and have a solid plan in place prior to severe weather,” said Commissioner George P. Bush. “Knowing your risks, having an evacuation plan, gathering supplies, securing documents, and protecting your property with flood and wind insurance are key steps to being prepared for storms or wildfires.

Texans can follow the GLO on social media and find disaster preparedness information for family and pets at recovery.texas.gov/preparedness.”

Aid No Match for Flood Insurance

According to a report by the Risk Management and Decision Processes Center at The Wharton School, homeowners received an average of $8,900 in individual housing assistance from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) following Hurricane Harvey. Meanwhile, the average of flood insurance claims was $115,104.

And almost five years after Harvey, the City of Houston’s Housing and Community Development Department still has hundreds of millions of dollars left to distribute. Counting on aid, as opposed to insurance, could mean years of living in subpar conditions.

According to FEMA, just one inch of flood water can cause more than $25,000 in damage.

Five Essential Steps

The GLO encourages all Texans to prepare for hurricane season by doing the following:

Know Your Risk

Sign up for your community’s emergency warning system. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio also provide emergency alerts.

Make Your Evacuation Plan

Check with local officials about updated evacuation shelters for this year. Know where your family will meet up if you are separated and where you will stay. Pack a “go bag” including items you need to take with you if you evacuate. A “go bag” should be easy to carry and kept in a place where you can grab it quickly. Check with drivetexas.org to find routes near you. To find a shelter near you, download the FEMA app at fema.gov/mobile-app.

Gather Supplies

Plan for your entire household including children, people with disabilities or access/functional needs, and pets. Don’t forget medications.

Secure Documents

Remember to secure copies of important personal documents. Filing for government assistance requires documentation. Be sure to keep documents in a secure location and take them with you if you need to evacuate. Place these documents in a waterproof bag and back them up on cloud storage or a thumb drive.

Protect Your Property

Shutter your home as needed. Review your flood insurance policy (or sign up for one). And declutter drains and gutters. Most homeowner and renter insurance policies do not cover flood damage. And a flood insurance policy generally does not take effect until 30 days after purchase. So, be sure to maintain your policy or get one now. Take a video “tour” of your home to document all items and the home’s current condition.

Remember, just because you may be outside of the 100-year flood plain doesn’t mean you won’t flood. Sixty-four percent of Harris County homes that flooded during Harvey were outside of the 100-year flood plain.

For more information, visit recovery.texas.gov/preparedness.


The campaign will run for the next three months. It includes social media, digital display, cable, broadcast and streaming platforms. Inspired by Senate Bill 285. It was signed into law during the 86th Session of the Legislature.

The GLO helps educate Texans about the benefits of protecting their homes and finances through flood insurance and being prepared for storms and other natural disasters.

Credit for the commercials goes to 1820 Productions for production and editing.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/15/22 based on a GLO press release

1751 Days since Hurricane Harvey

GLO Letters to HUD, Green, Garcia Tell Another Side of Mitigation Funding Story

Two letters from Texas General Land Office (GLO) – one to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the other to US Representatives Al Green and Sylvia Garcia – explain the GLO’s awards in a recent competition for $1.1 billion in Harvey mitigation funding.

GLO Commissioner George P. Bush sent the first letter to HUD on May 27, shortly after the GLO “snubbed” (according to Mayor Sylvester Turner) Houston and Harris County. Outraged politicians at City Hall and the County Courthouse organized a protest campaign targeted at the HUD and the GLO. These two letters lay out a slightly different mitigation funding story than the one peddled to Houston media outlets by the City and County. Most media coverage trumpeted how Houston and Harris County got “zero” out of competition because of political warfare between Republicans in Austin and Democrats here.

The facts in these two letters got very little play in Houston media.

Bush Letter to HUD Requests $750 Million Direct Allocation for Harris County

Bush’s letter explains to HUD how the GLO organized and scored grant applications in the competition. The letter also explains how:

  • GLO received more than $6.5 billion in grant requests for $1.1 billion during floods in 2015, 2016, and 2017.
  • Money was awarded based on a numeric scoring system approved by HUD
  • Harris County was one of dozens of counties affected by the three storms
  • Harris County and Harris County communities were awarded $90.4 million and $26.7 million for a total of $117,213,863.96 in the first round of mitigation competition.
  • He (Bush) is submitting a “new action plan amendment” to that will direct $750 million to Harris County.
  • GLO recognizes the great need for mitigation funding in Harris County.
  • GLO supports a direct allocation to Harris County (non-competitive)
  • He (Bush) requests speedy approval of the action plan amendment/direct allocation.

Hmmmmm. $117 million is a little more than zero. However, the point to remember here is that Harris County Flood Control got zero. The $117 went to cities within Harris County to improve resilience.

Havens’ Letter Cites HUD Restrictions, Slow Rate of Drawdown for Previous Programs

Deputy GLO Land Commissioner Mark Havens penned the second letter to Green and Garcia on June 10, 2021. It begins by making some of the same points about $6.5 billion in applications, HUD-approved rules, etc. But then, in regard to the rules he adds something new in the debate.

HUD did not allow damage from Hurricane Harvey to be used as a metric for allocating CDBG-MIT (Community Development Block Grant Mitigation) funding!

Mark Havens, Deputy land commissioner

Deputy Commissioner Havens also points out that:

  • The previous HUD secretary was adamant that a direct allocation didn’t go to Houston and Harris County, and that all counties should be eligible for funds.
  • If you add the $117 million mentioned above to the $750 million direct allocation requested by Bush, Harris County would actually get $867 million which the County could then share with the City of Houston as it saw fit.
  • Harris County also set aside $120 million in infrastructure funding out of the original $2.5 billion allocated to the County and City in the first round of Hurricane Harvey funding.
  • The City also received a direct allocation of $61,884,000 in mitigation funding out of the original $2.5 billion.
  • Out of the $2.5 billion, only $91,225,206 – or 3.6% of the total has been drawn down to date.
  • If the City and County don’t dramatically speed up the distribution of these funds, the funds will be returned to HUD.
  • HUD not yet responded to the request for the $750 million direct allocation.

For More Information

For the full text of:

To see the full text of other documents relating to this issue, see the links this post.

Flood mitigation should be non-partisan. This is about helping people whose lives were destroyed by flooding, not finger pointing. I’m not taking sides. I’m just trying to help give you the information you need about mitigation funding to intelligently question the officials you elected to serve you.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/15/2021

1386 Days since Hurricane Harvey

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

How to Speed Up Flood Mitigation Funding: Part II

Today marks the 1349th day since Hurricane Harvey. That’s also how long it took the United States to win World War II. To date, we’ve studied problems, made bold plans and, in a few cases, actually started constructing flood mitigation projects. But none of the $2.1 billion allocated for Texas flood mitigation by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has yet to work its way down to the local level.

The Townsen Overpass at US59 south of the San Jacinto West Fork during Harvey on 8/30/2017. Photo courtesy of Harris County Flood Control.

In the time it took us to win World War II, we’re still trying to line up flood mitigation financing.

Imagine What That HUD Money Could Have Done By Now

If Harris County Flood Control (HCFCD) had just half of that $2.1 billion, no one would be worrying about a funding shortfall for flood bond projects.

If HCFCD had just a quarter of that, it could more than triple the volume of flood mitigation projects currently under construction.

The Texas General Land Office (GLO) administers HUD flood mitigation funds for Texas. However, it has yet to announce the results of a statewide grant application competition for the first half of that $2.1 billion. Hopefully, those announcements will come this month. The GLO intends to hold a second competition for the second half of the money at a later date.

In fairness, the GLO is simply following HUD’s lead. Yesterday, GLO Commissioner George P. Bush suggested many ways to speed up existing flood-mitigation processes.

Below are thoughts contributed by others. To encourage their candor, I promised them anonymity.

I. Consolidation Under One Agency

One federal official suggested that all flood mitigation funds should flow from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), not HUD.

Rationale: Disaster relief is FEMA’s core competency. FEMA’s good at it. FEMA responds quickly. They are on location after disasters. They collect immense amounts of data, manage the National Flood Insurance Program, and have resources to get the job done quickly.

Right now, HUD, the slowest agency with the most rules and regulations, is responsible for helping the poorest neighborhoods, i.e., those that often need it most. Many think that’s unfair.

Dividing responsibilities among agencies creates needless bureaucracy, complexity, overlap and “stove piping.”

Stove-piping is where people in one bureaucracy are blind to activities in another. Eliminating the stove-piping requires cross checking data between agencies and programs, for instance to eliminate duplication of benefits. But that can also slow projects down.

II. Bring Back Earmarks in Some Cases

Another flood-mitigation expert suggested bringing back “earmarks” at the federal level. Earmarks were eliminated years ago to avoid spending on meritless projects in influential congressional districts.

Rationale: Not all earmarks are meritless. In cases of exceptional need, they can send money directly to cities or counties trying to build important flood mitigation projects. With proper safeguards against bogus earmarks, this idea could shave years off construction projects designed to protect people.

III. Partner with Army Corps More

Another expert suggested directing more money to the Army Corps for “project partnership agreements.” The Corps work directly with a local entity such as a city or county to help construct projects faster.

Rationale: The Corps was originally set up more than 200 years ago as a quick-reaction force for wartime. It now has the responsibility for managing the nation’s water infrastructure. The Corps has the turnkey expertise to gauge the merit of projects and the muscle to make things happen quickly.

HCFCD is currently working with HCFCD on projects in the Hunting, Brays, and White Oak Bayou Watersheds.

Previously, the Corps built the Antoine Stormwater Detention Basin in the Greens Bayou Watershed. HCFCD bought out the properties that comprised that basin and currently maintains the property.

IV. Establish a “Quick Reaction Fund”

A financial expert suggested establishing a “Quick Reaction Fund.” It would be activated by a Presidential Disaster Declaration and provide loans to get projects started quickly. The money could be used to jumpstart upfront activities, such as buyouts, environmental surveys and preliminary engineering reports. It could also be used to build entire projects that are needed quickly.

Rationale: Local entities often don’t have the money or staff to conduct these upfront activities. Buyouts can be especially problematic. They must often be completed before other flood mitigation activities, such as ditch improvements or detention ponds, can start.

“But we often have to wait 18 months or more for approval of buyouts,” said one engineer. “The vast majority of people can’t wait that long.”

So they fix up their homes and become more committed to them. Or they may just leave the area. Either way, this slows flood mitigation down even more.

A Forest Cove townhome just beyond the new Houston Parks Board San Jacinto Greenway. Harvey made the entire 80-townhome complex uninhabitable. Many residents left the area because they got tired of waiting for buyouts that are still not complete. That makes buyouts even more time consuming. Photo taken May 3, 2021.

The Quick Reaction Fund could help complete buyouts in months – instead of years – after a flood.

Loans could be paid back later by grant awards from the Feds.

V. Pass a Hazard Tax

To bypass the delays and uncertainties of competitive grant funding through state and federal levels, one local entity suggested passing a “hazard tax.”

Rationale: This would put local entities in charge of their own destinies rather than making them dependent on Washington and Austin for handouts. It would let cities and counties build up a war chest from their own tax revenues. Think of it as a savings account with a dedicated purpose – disaster mitigation. The money could be used to fund projects directly and quickly, or as the basis for matching funds when projects are less time critical.

Need Public Dialog

The rationale FOR the current system of competitive grant funding is to ensure the fairest possible distribution of available funds. But that requires defining and agreeing to eligibility rules upfront. It also requires upfront research, engineering, cost estimating and evaluation to prevent waste and fraud. All of that can take years. Hell, we’re still debating solutions to another Hurricane Ike (2008).

In my opinion, we desperately need a way to resolve such issues faster. I hope this series of articles will start a public dialogue among political leaders at all levels.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/9/2021

1349 Days after Hurricane Harvey, the number of days in WWII

“We Must Streamline Disaster Recovery Before the Next Disaster”

By George P. Bush

George P. Bush is Commissioner for the Texas General Land Office (GLO), the state agency tasked with leading the disaster recovery process after Hurricane Harvey, the second most destructive storm in American history. This guest editorial is a response to yesterday’s post about disaster recovery taking more time than it took to win World War II. In it, Mr. Bush suggests specific ways to accelerate disaster recovery.

As June 1st rapidly approaches, Texas coastal communities are wondering what the 2021 Hurricane Season will hold. Will thousands of Texas families be spared, or will they endure hurricane-force winds and flooding with years of recovery ahead of them? 

Hurricane Harvey at its peak intensity as it hit Texas in August 2017. Photo courtesy of National Hurricane Center.

We cannot stop natural disasters from happening, but we can certainly speed recovery efforts. The Texas General Land Office (GLO) has administered recovery programs for seven of the 18 major declared disasters the State of Texas has experienced in the last 15 years. We know firsthand how exhausting and lengthy this process can be. After flood waters have abated and the debris has been cleared, communities face the next hurdle – navigating the arduous and overly burdensome bureaucracy shackling speedy recovery efforts. 

Cutting Red Tape

My GLO team and I recognize the importance of following procedures to safeguard federal funds, but also understand bureaucracy is an obstruction to recovery and mitigation. Community Development Block Grants for Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) appropriated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) take years to reach disaster survivors. One of the most frequent concerns we hear—from survivors, county and local officials, and other stakeholders—is that CDBG-DR funds do not flow quickly enough to communities in need.

These dollars should be deployed as quickly and flexibly as possible to support recovery with as few additional regulations as possible. 

First, we must ensure effective and efficient disaster recovery by providing the framework for programs and activities that provide disaster relief; resiliency; long-term recovery; restoration of infrastructure and housing; economic revitalization; and mitigation in areas impacted by Presidentially declared disasters. This begins with codification of CDBG-DR program rules and regulations. 

Reducing Upfront Delays

For every new allocation, a new series of rules are written and published in the Federal Register. In Texas we are currently implementing CDBG supplemental funding for 8 events governed by 22 separate Federal Registers (rule books for how funding allocations may be used). A good amount of those rules, such as the national objectives imposed and the range of eligible activities, remain largely the same each time, but others are entirely new. Based on our experience, it takes between nine to sixteen months for a Federal Register Notice to be published for allocations of recovery funding after the major disaster declaration takes place. These allocations must first be granted to a state or other grantee following a special appropriation from Congress. 

The Federal Register for the CDBG-MIT funds was posted two years to the day after Hurricane Harvey made its final landfall on the coast of western Louisiana. 

Inspector General Recommends Codifying Rules

HUD going back to the drawing board for each appropriation consumes critical time that could be spent setting up programs at the state and local levels if the rules were codified. In July 2018, the HUD Office of Inspector General (HUD OIG) issued a report that identified 59 common rules HUD issues when drafting Federal Registers. The same report recommended HUD work to codify the CDBG-DR program.  

Fund deployment speed can also be enhanced by:

  • Streamlining processes at the federal level and at HUD
  • Retaining and developing in-house knowledge
  • Empowering grantees to move with a purpose. 

Five Specific Recommendations to Expedite Process

There are several steps the federal government can take to expedite this process. Here are the five I consider to be the most impactful:

  1. Create Office of Disaster Relief and Recovery – HUD currently has several offices with jurisdiction over CDBG-DR funds. This creates a tangled web of bureaucracy when HUD drafts a Federal Register, approves an Action Plan, or a grantee must seek a waiver or other change to program, vastly delaying the distribution of funds. A distinct disaster recovery division headed by an Assistant Secretary with discretion over disaster recovery funds would limit stove-piped information, reduce redundancies, and expedite decision-making authority within HUD. This change alone would vastly reduce delays in program progress.  
  • Facilitate capacity building – HUD should provide grantees an initial amount of administrative funds prior to approval of the action plan and grant agreement. This would enable grantees to hire staff to provide technical assistance for drafting the action plan and begin to build programs while the action plan is being developed so recovery efforts would not be delayed 6+ months while the process concludes. Many grantees lack the resources to essentially operate on credit until these funds are made available.
  • Standardize programs and only post changes – Congress should pass legislation standardizing rules so the Federal Register only includes what you cannot do versus everything you can. This would lessen the time waiting for the rules to be written and allow grantees to begin working on the general premise of what the program cannot do.
  • Codify data coordination between FEMA and HUD – The federal government must build a capable national data system to coordinate data sharing between federal, state, and local agencies. FEMA collects a tremendous amount of data following every disaster. This data is used to inform HUD allocations as well as to develop needs assessments by grantees. However, there is not a system in place that enables this data sharing to happen quickly, safely and effectively. 
  • Codify allocation timeline – HUD is not currently restricted in how long it takes to allocate special appropriations of CDBG-DR and CDBG-Mitigation to grantees. Additionally, grantees cannot begin drafting hundreds of pages of state and local action plans until HUD issues the rules for use of funds in the Federal Register. 

Example of Delays in Current System

For example, Congress appropriated nearly $28 billion to help disaster-affected states rebuild on February 9, 2018. Two months later, HUD allocated $4.383 billion to Texas. At the time, HUD also stated it “will issue administrative guidelines shortly for use of the funds to address grantees’ long-term recovery needs.” However, this did not happen for nearly a year and a half.

On August 30, 2019, HUD finally published the Federal Register notice enabling the State of Texas to proceed in drafting an action plan for the CDBG-MIT funds. The Federal Register required a robust public outreach component. The GLO went above and beyond HUD’s mandates by extending the required 45-day public-comment period to 50 days and surpassed HUD requirements by hosting eight public hearings – three public hearings prior to the completion of the draft plan and five following publication of the draft plan. Prior to finalizing the draft of the action plan, the GLO responded to thousands of comments collected from 117 meetings and 936 individuals

While the GLO waited 16 months for rules for the action plan, it only took the GLO approximately five months to draft the nearly 500 page document, conduct a historic public outreach effort, respond to comments, make revisions, and submit the plan to HUD for approval. It then took nearly two months before the GLO received approval from HUD.

The turnaround time for announcing rules should be substantially reduced to expedite the use of disaster recovery funding for those in urgent need of assistance.

Reducing Redundancies, Implementing Common-Sense Reforms

Since 2011, the GLO has worked with hundreds of communities and several thousand families to repair homes; reimburse out-of-pocket home repairs; conduct buyouts and acquire flood-prone properties; strengthen infrastructure; and conduct major planning studies to support local government mitigation efforts. The success of our programs can be attributed in part to our staff of dedicated experts as well as our streamlined grant administration.

No additional regulations or rules are added to our programs beyond what the federal government requires. 

George P. Bush

The GLO has proven that you can expedite recovery by eliminating unnecessary regulations, pre-positioning resources and putting contracts in place before a disaster. Disaster survivors shouldn’t have to wait years for assistance. It is plain and simple – we can and should lessen the burden on families and communities by reducing redundancies and implementing common-sense reforms. 

Guest Editorial by Texas General Land Office Commissioner George P. Bush on May 8, 2021

1348 Days after Hurricane Harvey

GLO Announces Homeowner Assistance, Reimbursement Programs for Imelda

The Texas General Land Office will begin taking applications this Saturday, April 24, for Imelda assistance. $71,604,000 is available for Chambers, Harris, Liberty, Jefferson, Montgomery, Orange and San Jacinto Counties.

.Land Commissioner George P. Bush has announced locations of regional Homeowner Assistance and Reimbursement Programs (HARP) offices in advance of the 24th. 

Applicants will be able to schedule an appointment in person in advance for the same day that applications will be available online.

Money Can Be Used For…

The money will cover repair or reconstruction of owner-occupied single-family homes and reimbursement up to $50,000 for certain out-of-pocket expenses incurred for reconstruction, rehabilitation, or mitigation.

Repayment of SBA loans is also eligible for reimbursement.

Car submerged during Imelda in Elm Grove. Photo courtesy of Allyssa Harris.

Appointments Required for In-Person Assistance

“Thousands of homes in Southeast Texas were damaged during during Imelda, devastating the livelihoods of countless Texans,” said Commissioner Bush. “In advance of the Homeowner Assistance and Reimbursement Programs application being released, the GLO is announcing locations of offices to provide residents with help applying for assistance.

Evacuation from Elm Grove during Imelda. Photo courtesy of Keith Stewart.

Where to Get Help

All applicants must make an appointment before visiting an office location.

Appointments will ensure proper capacity under COVID-19 restrictions. Applicants may request additional hours.

Harris County
Location: St. Mark’s United Methodist Church
3811 N Main St, Baytown, TX 77521-3305 

Montgomery County
Location: North Montgomery County Community Center
600 Gerald St, Willis, TX 77378-3477 

Chambers County
Location: Chambers County Municipal Building
211 Broadway, Winnie, TX 77665-7781 

San Jacinto County
Location: Coldspring Area Public Library
14221 State Hwy 150 West, Coldspring, TX 77331 

Jefferson County
Location: First City Building 505 Orleans Street, Beaumont, TX 77701
Hours: By appointment only: Monday – Friday 8:00am – 5:00pm
By appointment only: Saturday 8:00am – 12:00pm         

Orange County
Location: Orange County Convention and Expo Center
11475 FM 1442, Orange, TX 77630-5227 

Pop-up Intake Locations
Hours: All by appointment only
Phone Number: 844-484-4277 (844-484-HARP)     

Main Regional Office:
Phone Number: 844-484-4277 (844-484-HARP) 

Liberty County residents are eligible. An office in Liberty County may be announced in the future. For now, work through the main regional office above (in Beaumont).

Online, Email, Phone Assistance

Interested homeowners may also visit http://recovery.texas.gov/harp to apply online or download a printable version of the application.

Additionally, applicants may email the GLO at cdr@recovery.texas.gov or call 1-844-893-8937 to get help applying.” Up to date office locations and additional information are available at http://recovery.texas.gov/harp

Before You Apply, Understand These Things

A single application can be submitted for reimbursement AND repair assistance.

However, an application must be submitted along WITH required documents for consideration.

HARP is “first-come, first-served,” and all homeowners are encouraged to apply immediately.

Households applying for reimbursement that do not meet the low-to moderate-income (LMI) threshold will be processed after the first six months from application opening, but may receive construction assistance prior to then, based on their application date.

HARP is only available for the homeowner’s primary residence.  

Documents You Need Before Applying

Potential applicants should review the Homeowner Assistance and Reimbursement Programs Checklist to have all applicable documents ready prior to applying.

Potential applicants can also find in-person assistance at regional HARP offices serving their area. In addition to a main office in each region, each county will have at least one application drop off location or satellite office. Additional satellite offices and application intake locations may be announced in the future and will be viewable at http://recovery.texas.gov/harp.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/21/21 based on information provided by the Texas General Land Office

1331 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 580 since Imelda

Harris County Declared Federal Disaster Area in Wake of Imelda; State Taking Control of Disaster Mitigation Funding

On October 1st, Governor Greg Abbott sent a disaster-request letter to President Trump in response to the damage caused by Tropical Storm Imelda. The 31-page letter to President Trump lays out the case for Federal aid. It also includes an impressive catalog of storm-related damages.

The thirteen counties impacted by Tropical Storm Imelda (Imelda) are still recovering from previous disasters, including Hurricane Harvey. The population of the counties affected by Imelda exceeds 7.59 million people. That represents more than a quarter of the state’s population.

Six Counties Declared Disaster Area

Abbott requested a Presidential Disaster Declaration for the six counties in the Gulf Coast region that sustained severe flooding. Today, the President granted Governor Abbott’s request.

That means Individual Assistance for those in Chambers, Harris, Jefferson, Liberty, Montgomery, and Orange counties will now become available. The Governor’s press release states that “Individual Assistance includes up to $35,500 per household for damages sustained during the severe weather.”

“This means that even if people did not have flood insurance, they may receive financial aid and low-cost SBA loans,” said Kaaren Cambio, staff assistant for Congressman Dan Crenshaw.

GLO Designated to Lead Disaster Mitigation Efforts

In a separate statement, the Governor announced that Commissioner George P. Bush and the Texas General Land Office will lead the State’s comprehensive disaster mitigation program. Bush will direct more than $4 billion in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Community Development Block Grant for Mitigation (CDBG-MIT).

The program will prioritize large-scale, regional projects that increase the state’s resilience to disasters statewide, protect lives and mitigate against future hurricanes and other natural disasters. Bush says he will focus on projects that benefit the most Texans. That means “prioritizing regional partnerships to protect Texans from future storms.”

On August 23, 2019, HUD released mandatory rules for the use of more than $4.3 billion in funding for mitigation projects. They covered money appropriated by Congress on February 9, 2018. Before the GLO could begin drafting a state action plan, those rules had to be published in the Federal Register. The GLO has already begun drafting the plan. It should take approximately nine months or more to complete, at which time, the GLO can send it to HUD for approval.

In total, HUD allocated $4,383,085,000 in CDBG-MIT funds to Texas. Altogether, 140 Texas counties are eligible for some part of this allocation of funding for 2015, 2016, and 2017 (Hurricane Harvey) disasters.

ABC13 Says Choice of GLO Was Response to Slow Pace of Recovery

Ted Oberg of ABC13 News reported today that Abbott tapped the GLO because the City of Houston and Harris County were not moving fast enough with their flood mitigation efforts. The article’s headline says, “Slow pace costs Houston, Harris County control of flood money.” It begins, “Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has taken notice of Houston’s slow-moving progress with its Harvey recovery program.”

“Houston and Harris County’s lack of movement on Harvey housing recovery is the reason the city and county will not get a direct allocation. Victims need this money. That’s why this will go through GLO,” Abbott spokesman John Wittman told 13 Investigates’ Ted Oberg.

In the Mayoral Debate on Wednesday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said that the city had received $1.3 billion for home repair and recovery.

Oberg reported in June, 2019, that only four people received housing aid as of that date, despite private companies being paid millions to operate the program. Oberg says that the City’s latest figures show that since then, only an additional 11 people have received financial assistance, despite more than 16,400 homeowners expressing interest in it. 

As of August 1, of the 4,900 people that the City invited to apply for its federally-funded Homeowner Assistance Programs, less than half submitted an application.

Reaction from Local Officials

According to Oberg, Mayor Sylvester Turner said, “It’s on them now.”

Judge Lina Hidalgo said in a statement to 13 Investigates. “While we’re disappointed in Governor Abbott’s decision to run this program out of Austin instead of providing us local control, we’ll continue to work as a team to make sure we apply every single federal dollar available towards building a stronger, safer Harris County.”

Questions Still Remain

It’s still unclear to me at this hour how the GLO’s focus on large scale mitigation projects affects individual homeowners seeking financial assistance. They seem to tap two different pots of money. But they also seem to have been conflated by the reporting on this issue. Let’s hope that the state can speed things up on both fronts. Flooded homeowners need help immediately, not three years after the disaster.

More than a dozen homes on Dunnam Road near Tailor Gulley flooded for the second time in four months during Imelda. The owner of the home on the left told me he did not apply for federal assistance.

Need to Re-engineer Disaster Mitigation is NOT in Question

As I’ve stated before, we need to re-engineer the whole disaster mitigation business. Sometimes fewer people, not more, can get results faster.

Harris County’s Final Harvey report stated: “Based on house flooding assessments, the estimated total number of homes flooded within Harris County is 154,170.” That only 15 homeowners have received HUD financial assistance more than two years after Harvey is an indictment of the whole crazy system that has evolved.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/3/2019

766 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 15 since Imelda