After getting hammered by Houston area officials, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush announced Wednesday night that he’d asked the federal government to send $750 million for flood mitigation directly to Harris County, days after his General Land Office iced-out the county and the city of Houston from receiving any funds at all from the latest round of Hurricane Harvey relief dollars.
Bush attempted to blame President Joe Biden for Houston and Harris County not getting any of the first $1 billion in federal flood relief cash the General Land Office distributed last week, despite the fact that before well before Biden’s presidency, Bush’s office was responsible for creating the formula for evaluating funding requests that disadvantaged large urban areas like Houston and Harris County in the competition for relief dollars.
“I have heard the overwhelming concerns of Harris County regarding the mitigation funding competition,” Bush said. “The federal government’s red tape requirements and complex regulations are a hallmark of President Biden’s administration,” he claimed, even though Bush’s office devised the funding formula back when former President Donald Trump was still in the White House.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said Wednesday that she was “encouraged state officials have recognized the flaws in their process and Harris County’s desperate need for certainty in receiving Harvey mitigation funds.”
“I support and continue to call for certainty in funding,” she continued, “but $750 million for Harris County is still a mere fraction of the $4.3 billion that the state received for flood mitigation after Hurricane Harvey and not enough to meet our needs.”
If approved, the $750 million in federal relief cash would be sent directly to Harris County, which Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner wasn’t very happy about.
After Bush’s announcement, Turner argued that $750 million isn’t nearly enough money for the Houston area’s flood mitigation needs since “Houston and Harris County experienced 50 percent of the damages from Hurricane Harvey,” and expressed his frustration that the city still wouldn’t be receiving any direct cash for its own projects.
“Harris County should receive $1 billion and the city of Houston should receive $1 billion,” Turner said in a statement. “All Commissioner Bush has to do is amend his state plan to provide that direct allocation to the city of Houston and to Harris County.”
Hidalgo and Turner along with the Houston City Council and the county's Commissioners Court sent a letter to Bush Wednesday blasting the General Land Office for creating the funding formula that initially left Houston and Harris County out of the relief funding, and asked that the funds be allocated “based on the proportionality of the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey.”
The focus on Bush and the General Land Office was a shift from Hidalgo, who on Friday blamed the Trump administration’s HUD office for being responsible for the Houston area flood relief funding snafu, despite having met with land office officials the day before.
It’s still unclear if this $750 million that Bush requested will be the only cash the Houston area would get from the $4.3 billion in federal funds allocated to Texas for post-Harvey flood mitigation. If that’s the case, then Bush will surely be hearing more from outraged city and county leaders in the weeks and months ahead.
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