County still dealing with Harvey recovery

 

Matagorda County is more than a year past the advent of Hurricane Harvey on the Gulf Coast but the hurricane recovery process is still ongoing.

Congressman Michael Cloud questioned Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Brock Long about the hurricane recovery process at a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing. Since his election in June, Cloud had participated in dozens of meetings with local leaders and district residents, and he discussed their concerns with Long.

The concerns broke down into three major topics: housing, issues with FEMA staff, and wasteful or complicated processes. 

 “It would seem to me that – for all the best intentions of eliminating waste – that we’ve created a system of waste,” Rep. Cloud remarked.

One concern he noted was that smaller communities with limited resources applying for small grants were frequently required to use the same complex process as big cities applying for larger grants. Other communities expressed frustration with having to start the application process over from the beginning due to minor errors, resulting in months of lost work.

Hurricane recovery has been a priority for Cloud, who has worked with numerous cities, schools, and families to help push grant applications through the FEMA process. One of those grants – for Victoria ISD – came up in the hearing, when Rep. Cloud displayed a nearly 20-foot long banner that the district had been using to track its FEMA application process. 

“That’s the FEMA process – very, very complicated,” said Cloud.

One solution Long suggested was that “FEMA needs more granting authority to block-grant funding down to a governor so that a governor can do housing the way he or she thinks that it would work best in his or her community – not how FEMA thinks it works best.”

Previously, Cloud had emphasized that “we have to take two approaches: fixing the broken FEMA process, but also cutting red tape and helping communities and families navigate the current process in the meantime.”

To accomplish this, he hired a staff member devoted full-time to Harvey recovery, and his office has assisted residents in dealing with FEMA. Additionally, Cloud has met with FEMA’s office in Austin to discuss potential improvements and with Vice President Mike Pence and staff when the Vice President visited Rockport to inspect recovery efforts.

As Harvey recovery efforts will continue for years before Texas is fully healed, Cloud plans to continue working with FEMA to streamline their processes, including pushing for legislative changes in areas where federal law – like certain requirements in the Stafford Act – may be holding back progress. 

Cloud also encouraged residents to contact his office at (361) 884-2222 or at cloud.house.gov if they need assistance with hurricane recovery.

In related Hurricane Harvey recovery news, FEMA has awarded more than $1.28 million to the Jackson Electric Cooperative for repairs to power distribution systems damaged by Hurricane Harvey’s winds in four Texas counties. 

The grant covers repairs to 94 poles, 12 transformers and a variety of other equipment in Brazoria, Calhoun, Jackson and Matagorda counties. Jackson Electric Cooperative is a consumer-owned nonprofit that also serves Lavaca County.

The cost of the repairs exceeded $1.42 million. FEMA’s grant of $1.28 million requires a nonfederal contribution from the applicant totaling 10 percent of the project cost, or $142,286.

The grant is provided by FEMA’s Public Assistance program, which reimburses communities, schools and other eligible applicants for actions taken in the immediate response to and during recovery from a disaster. Eligible applicants include states, federally recognized tribal governments, U.S. territories, local governments and certain private nonprofits. The grant program provides funding directly to the state for disbursement to the applicants.

For additional information on Hurricane Harvey and Texas recovery, visit the Hurricane Harvey disaster web page at www.fema.gov/disaster/4332, Facebook at www.facebook.com/FEMAHarvey, the FEMA Region 6 Twitter account at www.twitter.com/FEMARegion6 or the Texas Division of Emergency Management website at www.dps.texas.gov/dem/.

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