Six Months After Hurricane Harvey

Virginia Torres, 76, sits in front of her home, damaged by Hurricane Harvey, holding her 14-year-old cat Rascal. The cat still lives at the Austwell house, but Torres has been displaced since the hurricane.

As part of a plan to distribute $5 billion in federal grant money to rebuild after Hurricane Harvey, the Texas General Land Office is planning to set aside about $110 million for the Crossroads, the agency’s spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Earlier this week, the state agency released a draft of a plan to divvy up grant funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The plan outlines how the state wants to use money to rebuild communities that took the brunt of Harvey’s impact.

This grant money is separate from short-term housing programs funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“This is a historic allocation,” said GLO press secretary Brittany Eck. “Many of these allocations are many times larger than the annual budgets of these local communities.”

Right now, the draft plan tasks the Golden Crescent Regional Planning Commission, which works in a seven-county region that includes Victoria, with overseeing recovery efforts in the Crossroads. Victoria was identified in the plan as one of the communities most damaged by Harvey.

The plan currently earmarks about $55.9 million for homeowner assistance programs and another $18.4 million to be used to buyout homeowners whose properties are in flood-prone areas. About $36 million is also set aside for infrastructure improvements, which could include projects such as protecting water systems.

Michael Ada, who works for the local planning commission, said the state plans to share more details with local government groups this week. Right now, it’s too early to know exactly what rules local government groups must follow to run the programs and who will qualify for them.

“It’s too early on,” said Ada. “We’ll be having some discussions obviously to see and start thinking about ‘Are we doing the best we can?’”

For the next two weeks, the public can comment on the state’s draft. After that, the GLO plans to respond to the comments and include them in the final version that’s sent to the federal government, said the GLO’s spokeswoman.

The federal government then has to give its approval, a process that has taken months in the past, said Eck. But she said the state is doing all it can to speed up the time frame.

“It is a long process,” Eck said, “and however we can expedite the recovery process, we’re going to try and do so.”

Marina reports on local government for the Victoria Advocate. She may be reached at mriker@vicad.com or 361-580-6511.

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Marina writes about housing, Hurricane Harvey recovery and local politics for the Victoria Advocate. You can reach Marina by emailing mriker@vicad.com or follow her on Twitter, @MarinaStarleaf.

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