Texas coastal communities are still rebuilding after the impact of Hurricane Harvey last year. But in addition to rebuilding what was damaged or destroyed, the affected communities must also look to the future and prepare for future storms. FEMA is helping with that problem, to the tune of $1 billion in funds earmarked for hazard mitigation.
During a press conference in Rockport, Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott announced that coastal communities affected by Hurricane Harvey could now apply for a share of half a billion dollars in FEMA funds that have been disbursed to the state. That’s half of the billion-dollar total, the rest of which is expected to be available by around the one-year anniversary of Harvey’s landfall in late August. As reported by Houston Public Media, the funds can be put toward a variety of hazard mitigation projects.
“We want to rebuild in ways that reduce the risk of future damages to property and to lives,” Gov. Abbott told an assembly of reporters in Rockport. “The money is here, checks can be cut immediately as soon as you get your applications in and get them approved by [the Texas Division of Emergency Management].”
The FEMA funds will cover 75 percent of costs for applicable projects, which Houston Public Media reports can include:
- Buyouts of flooded structures and elevating structures above floodplains
- Floodwalls, seawalls, jetties, sand dune restoration and channeling waterways
- Retrofitting houses and buildings to withstand hurricane winds
- Storm surge protection projects
The remaining 25 percent would typically be paid by local governments, Abbott told reporters that in this case other federal funds had been secured to cover the remainder of the cost for these Harvey-related projects.
Austin-based FEMA spokesman Kurt Pickering said, “The whole idea is to make the state … more resilient next time.”
Abbott clarified that these FEMA funds are in addition to the $5 billion HUD grant announced in November 2017. In accordance with HUD rules, Abbott said the Texas General Land Office must submit a state plan for those funds, which HUD must then approve. Abbott said he expected the $5 billion to be fast-tracked and available by the end of March.
In the meantime, Texans still working to rebuild after Harvey can check out two upcoming free drop-in hurricane assistance centers, co-hosted by HOPE NOW Alliance and the National Mortgage Servicing Association. The drop-in center events will allow hurricane-affected residents to speak with professionals to learn how best to manage their own recovery and what resources are available to them. The first two events are scheduled for Tuesday, February 27, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Kingwood Community Center located in Kingwood, Texas, and Wednesday, February 28, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Courtyard Marriott in Katy, Texas. More such events are planned for later in the year. You can learn all the details here.