Texas Leaders Scrounge to Boost Hurricane Harvey Housing Repairs, Call on Congress to Help

AUSTIN -- Texas leaders, peppered with pleas from coastal leaders for fast action on Hurricane Harvey relief, announced Wednesday they will shift $38.6 million of state funds to jump-start housing reconstruction.Effectively borrowing from next year's state budget, Gov. Greg Abbott and legislative leaders gave "cash flow" funds to six federally funded, short-term housing programs being administered by state Land Commissioner George P. Bush.Also, Abbott joined governors from California, Florida and Puerto Rico in urging leaders of Congress to quickly wrap up work on a "substantial" package of additional federal disaster-relief funds."While no longer front page news in Washington D.C., ongoing suffering becomes more acute the longer Congress waits," the four governors wrote.Last month, the U.S. House passed a bill that would have sent $81 billion in federal aid to areas affected by recent hurricanes and wildfires. However, the U.S. Senate hasn't acted.In November, President Donald Trump requested $44 billion of storm aid for all of the affected areas -- an amount Abbott decried as "inadequate." Abbott and Texas' congressional delegation have sought $61 billion for the Gulf Coast alone.By some estimates, Texas has received $11 billion in federal aid, significantly less than the $115 billion allocated after Hurricane Katrina and the $56 billion after Hurricane Sandy.Through November, state agencies and higher education institutions reported spending nearly $1.8 billion on Harvey, according to the Legislative Budget Board, a group of key GOP lawmakers who closely track the state budget. One-fifth of the $1.8 billion was state funds; the rest, federal.Pleas for more helpSome coastal mayors, such as Houston's Sylvester Turner and Port Aransas' Charles Bujan, have complained of inadequate assistance, especially for housing."This is urgent," Turner said at a news conference last month." There are thousands of people living in homes that need to be remediated, and there are thousands of people still living in hotels. The city is doing everything that we can do, but unless we have the additional resources we're still going to fall short."  Continue reading...

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