The Victoria County Long-Term Recovery Group is trying to make sure the state and federal government don’t shortchange Hurricane Harvey survivors in the Crossroads.
They are worried this could happen simply because there aren’t enough people working full-time to help the survivors navigate the cumbersome process of applying for assistance by what appears to be an arbitrary deadline.
At an LTRG meeting Friday, Michael Ada, director of disaster response for the Golden Crescent Regional Planning Commission, said the Texas General Land Office has proposed grouping the Golden Crescent Regional Planning Commission with other councils of government in the state for its homeowner’s assistance program, which may begin accepting applications during the holidays.
He said because of this proposed grouping, the $32.5 million the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and GLO previously allocated to the Golden Crescent Regional Planning Commission could be at risk of going elsewhere if applications aren’t submitted within 60 to 90 days.
He said this is also true of the buyout and acquisition program. He said Victoria County and the city of Victoria were allocated a combined $5 million for that.
“So we just have to make sure we get there first?” asked Dolly Stokes, the treasurer of the LTRG and executive director of the Victoria County United Way.
“I think that’s the first step, Dolly, but I think there does have to be a message, a concerted message from interested groups that the funds need to stay in the region until we absolutely cannot spend it,” Ada said.
Shelby O’Brien, of the GLO, said the GLO wasn’t going to leave “anybody hanging out to dry.” She said she would communicate the LTRG’s concerns with her supervisors but couldn’t guarantee they would listen.
“Well, we appreciate you being here in our corner,” Stokes said.
They all agreed that they need to make disaster case managers aware of the required ownership documents that must be presented for each program as soon as possible.
“I think it’s important for them to start looking at that just because the amount of ownership documentation that is required from these individuals is quite a bear,” Ada said.
“That’s partly why participation was so low in our region, because applying for these sorts of programs is just difficult.”
Ada took up the bulk of the meeting as he had a lot of news to share, not all of it good.
He also said FEMA will likely end its temporary direct housing program in February.
Ten Crossroads families who are part of it now could have to leave the region because they have no place to rent, he said.
And if they continue using the recreational vehicles FEMA has provided them, they could be charged rent, but it’s unclear how much their rent would be.
The good news is that the Long-Term Recovery Group welcomed new disaster case managers at the same meeting.
Lutheran Social Services Disaster Response will have four case workers in Victoria County and two in Calhoun County starting Monday.
Their case loads will be a maximum of 30, said Terrilyn Jackson, the group’s representative.
The other groups providing disaster case management – the LTRG, the Rio Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church and St. Vincent de Paul Disaster Services – reported they had 230 open and active cases in Victoria County.
Stokes said this month, a committee composed of nonprofit funders donated $174,971 to Harvey survivors’ recovery in Victoria, Calhoun and DeWitt counties.
“We’ve been at this for a little over a year now, and we’re still going strong,” said Mark Longoria, who is president of the LTRG and the outreach pastor at Faith Family Church, “As Dolly said, if anybody wants to jump into a role at the LTRG ... we’d definitely take anyone’s help to move things forward and as fast as we can.”