Show us the money. That's the message from Texas to the federal government, as the price tag for Hurricane Harvey recovery continues to grow. This week, a bipartisan group including Gov. Greg Abbott, Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, and nearly the state's entire Congressional delegation sent a joint letter to the House and Senate leaders requesting nearly $19 billion in additional recovery funds for Harvey. This on top of the $15 billion already sent to Texas last month, as federal relief efforts ramped up shortly after the storm.
The latest request primarily covers U.S. Army Corps of Engineer projects along the Gulf Coast, along with block grants for individual communities. But it still remains only a small part of the resources that ultimately will be necessary to rebuild all of the state's housing and infrastructure lost or damaged by Harvey. In fact, state leaders now estimate it will take $60 billion in disaster relief funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to fully rebuild from the storm.
Amy Van Duyne, regional HUD administrator for Texas, tells KTRH that helping the state recover from Harvey will be a long and complicated process that goes far beyond any arbitrary dollar amount. "You could pour billions of dollars into a community, but if they don't have the manpower to be able to manage the spending of those dollars, it doesn't mean anything," she says. "It will take a little bit of time to come up with a plan that is going to be beneficial in the long term---and that means not building homes in flood plains, where they're going to be at risk of flooding again next year and facing the exact same thing."
While long term solutions will take months and even years, HUD is focused on short-term relief for those displaced by Harvey. "We've been working on getting people out of shelters as soon as possible," says Van Duyne. "Nobody ever wants to be in a shelter, and we're trying to figure out how we can get them into intermediate housing, and then into permanent housing."
Ultimately, most of the federal funding will likely be there for Texas, but the process of local communities deciding how best to spend and distribute it means Texans will need patience. "It took hundreds of years to build some of these cities, and it's not going to be easy to rebuild them in two weeks," says Van Duyne.