LTRG

Congressman Michael Cloud, in the center, discusses Hurricane Harvey recovery in Victoria County at a Long-Term Recovery Group meeting. Also pictured is Erik Lawrence with Cloud's office and architect Rawley McCoy on the left and right of Cloys is development coordinator Rick Villa and committee chairman Lane Johnson with the long-term recovery group.

In less than a week, the Texas General Land Office will start accepting applications for its Homeowner Reimbursement Program.

Details of the new program were discussed at the Victoria County Long-Term Recovery Group’s monthly meeting Friday at Gulf Bend Center.

Treasurer Dolly Stokes said she expects residents who have already made repairs since the hurricane to take advantage of this program.

The state has allocated $100 million in Community Development Block Grants for Disaster Recovery funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to reimburse homeowners for up to $50,000 in out-of-pocket repair expenses.

The home must be the owner’s primary residence, and all repairs must have been completed by Feb. 28.

Brittany Eck, director of communications for General Land Office Commissioner George P. Bush’s office, said those interested should be prepared with receipts or invoices and other required documentation.

She said all homeowners should apply because the program is first-come, first-served. There is, however, a requirement that 80 percent of the funds go to HUD-designated "most-impacted" counties, which includes Victoria.

Low-to-moderate income households will receive prioritized application processing for the first 30 days.

The Homeowner Reimbursement Program is open to any homeowner affected by Hurricane Harvey with the exception of those living in Houston or Harris County, which have their own repair programs.

Eck said the state requested the federal government waive the requirement that all repairs needed to have been done within one year of the storm. The date was extended to the end of this month, which means more homeowners should be eligible for reimbursement.

Another concern was whether the program will reimburse homeowners who had applied for a Small Business Administration loan to pay for repairs after Harvey because it would be considered a duplication of benefits.

Congressmen Michael Cloud told long-term recovery group members he wrote a letter requesting that the government allow these victims to not have the SBA loan be counted against them for federal grants including the Homeowner Reimbursement Program.

Cloud, who is from Victoria and serves as U.S. Representative of District 27, said he’s working to improve the recovery process for the next disaster.

The Unmet Needs Committee, which now meets every other week to review cases with disaster case managers and funders, has allocated nearly $1.76 million in assistance on 433 cases since it formed.

Interim Chairman Tony Martinez, who is business manager for the Diocese of Victoria, said of those cases, 392 came from Victoria County, while 41 involved hurricane-affected families living in nearby counties.

Martinez said they started a new program that would allow disaster case managers to ask funders directly for funds to purchase small appliances, such as microwaves, for families instead of waiting for the next meeting.

Lane Johnson, chairman of the crisis counseling and spiritual care committee, said the group’s disaster case managers have been attending debriefing meetings once a month.

Each disaster case manager is working through up to 35 cases at any time. He also encouraged all members working in disaster recovery to take care of their own mental health.

“If you don’t watch that carefully, it’ll sneak up on you,” he said.

The next long-term recovery group meeting is scheduled for March 29 at Gulf Bend Center, 6502 Nursery Drive, Suite 100.

Clarification: This article was updated to make it clear that 80 percent of the funding is designated for "most-impacted" counties. Low-to-moderate income homes will receive priority for the first 30 days.

Laura Garcia is the Features Editor for the Victoria Advocate. She may be reached at lgarcia@vicad.com or 361-580-6585.

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Features Editor

Laura has covered health and nonprofits in the Crossroads since 2014. She's also mom to a toddler, loves journalism conferences and is a big fan of sci-fi and crime TV.

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