City seeks federal assistance for Harvey-affected homeowners

Laura Garcia By Laura Garcia

Feb. 9, 2018 at 8:12 p.m.
Updated Feb. 10, 2018 at 6 a.m.

The Long Term recovery group heard at its Friday meeting about a program that could help homeowners affected by Hurricane Harvey.

The Long Term recovery group heard at its Friday meeting about a program that could help homeowners affected by Hurricane Harvey.    Laura Garcia for The Victoria Advocate

City officials are making plans to work with a firm called GrantWorks to administer a federally funded housing program.

"This is not an overnight process," said Donna Johnson, associate vice president of housing at GrantWorks.

Johnson discussed the program Friday at the Victoria County Long Term Recovery Group's meeting.

The city is in the process of getting into an agreement with the state, but the funds come from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Johnson explained to members how the program would work to help those within city limits who were affected by Hurricane Harvey.

The Home Investment Partnerships Program primarily works with homeowners who are current with their taxes or in a payment plan and meet an income requirement of 80 percent of the median income.

Johnson said this would be $49,750 gross income for a family of four.

If the survivor received funds to repair their home from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, they must have receipts.

But in her experience, applicants face a challenge with eligibility.

"You have to have a clear title, and that can be a problem," she said.

Residents often don't have a title when the home is passed down from family.

Dina Hardwick, staff attorney with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, said her caseload has been mostly title issues.

"This is kind of like the second wave of people we are seeing," she said.

The organization has provided low-income Harvey survivors with free legal services.

Johnson said once the program is approved, GrantWorks will start accepting applications and will help assist in the paperwork process.

The program covers up to $100,000 per home. If the house is destroyed or cannot be repaired to meet current building standards, Johnson said, the program can build a new home.

According to the firm's website, during the past 20 years, GrantWorks has secured more than $150,000,000 in funding for more than 400 contracts for clients, which include local governments and nonprofit groups.

The city has used this program in the past to help homeowners with disabilities, Johnson said.

Mark Longoria, chairman of the long-term recovery group, thanked Assistant City Manager John Kaminski and the city for their work.

During the meeting, several organizations reported progress on repairing damaged homes, with much of the labor done by volunteers.

Since the last meeting, Mennonite Disaster Service finished two more extensive home remodels in Bloomington and is working on three major restorations.

"We have work lined up through the fall," said Mike Stuckey, with the Mennonite Disaster Service.

Habitat for Humanity is also working on four roofing jobs with volunteers staying at Faith Family Church.

The unmet needs committee granted $26,000 within the past two weeks to aid in the recovery of 13 families.

Good things are happening because of the work of volunteers and donations from nonprofit organizations, said Dolly Stokes, secretary/treasurer for the group and executive director of the Victoria County United Way.

"People that have serious needs are being helped every day," she said. "Each case is being vetted, and checks are written to the suppliers."

Longoria said he's impressed with the progress the group has made in the past five months.

"It seems like there's just an energy or a unity to the group," he said. "The quicker that we can collaborate and coordinate, the quicker we can get people back in their homes."



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