Abbott praises recovery; official says wait continues

Marina Riker By Marina Riker

Oct. 9, 2017 at 10:15 p.m.
Updated Oct. 10, 2017 at 3:55 p.m.

Gov. Greg Abbott arrives at 700 Main Center to speak with Victoria city officials about the city's needs and what the state can provide for Hurricane Harvey recovery.

Gov. Greg Abbott arrives at 700 Main Center to speak with Victoria city officials about the city's needs and what the state can provide for Hurricane Harvey recovery.   Nicolas Galindo for The Victoria Advocate

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said officials are moving "pedal to the metal" to recover from Hurricane Harvey, which has left hundreds of Victoria residents without homes.

Monday, the governor visited cities spanning from Rockport to Victoria to ask elected officials about what their communities need. For many cities, one of the top priorities is finding housing for hundreds of residents who lost their homes to the storm's torrential rains and winds.

"The resources are there to get it done," Abbott said.

For part of the day, Abbott was joined by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Blake Farenthold, both Republicans, on the tour through six cities impacted by Hurricane Harvey. The meetings with local officials came just two weeks after federal and state government agencies announced new programs to help people who lost homes, which include paying for more permanent home repairs and offering trailers as temporary housing.

"It's moving very, very fast - maybe at a record pace," said Abbott, adding he hoped to rebuild Texas infrastructure to be better protected from future disasters.

The Texas General Land Office is in charge of the new recovery programs, which were designed to address individual communities' needs. In the near future, the land office will take over recovery efforts from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said Pete Phillips, a top-ranking official at the General Land Office.

Currently, state officials are negotiating details - for instance, how much money the government will pay to repair residents' homes - with the federal officials. In the meantime, Phillips is urging local government organizations, such as the Golden Crescent Regional Planning Commission, to hire two employees to oversee recovery efforts.

Phillips said he hopes to be finished negotiating and ready to roll out new programs in about 30 days. Then, local government groups will be in charge of passing out resources from the state directly to residents, which could include mobile homes or hiring contractors to fix homes and apartments.

But until then, residents without homes are still struggling.

In Refugio, a rural county of about 7,000 residents, County Judge Robert Blaschke said residents in more than 200 households were left without homes when Harvey struck. So far, local officials in his county are still waiting on specific information for when residents can expect help.

"We're waiting," said Blaschke.

More than a month after Harvey struck, Blaschke meets once a week with mayors, law enforcement and nonprofits in his county. The counties' mayors and sheriff's offices have been keeping lists of people who were displaced and resources that they need, he said.

Finding places for trailer homes and money to fix homes and apartments are on the top of Blaschke's list.

"The main thing is to get everyone in a situation where they can get some sense of normalcy," said Blaschke.


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