We knew the recovery from Hurricane Harvey wasn’t going to happen overnight, but we didn’t know how slow the federal assistance part of the process was going to be.
We are at 13 months past the disaster that struck the Texas coasts causing billions of dollars in damages to home and businesses.
Victoria and Bloomington school districts are still trying to make repairs to their campuses. At the same times they are still trying to get reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency so they can continue to pay for these essential repairs.
The process is excruciatingly slow as school officials work with the insurance companies and FEMA to get reimbursed. In the meantime, the districts are having to take from their fund balances to pay the repair bills.
The biggest part of the problem is the red tape jungle known as FEMA.
Recently, Victoria school district was notified it would receive a little over $1 million from FEMA to bring its total reimbursement from the federal agency to $1,384,402.
It took several months and a special effort by the district and Congressman Michael Cloud to get this money earmarked for the Victoria school district. It was not an easy task.
Every time they appeared to make progress, it would either come to a stop and they would have to start over or new people would be assigned to the case so the process would have to begin again.
The bureaucracy that is FEMA makes it really slow to respond and react.
The bureaucracy that is FEMA has been present from the beginning. When FEMA representatives were present in the Crossroads, they would work with individuals and businesses to establish the claim and then move on to another area, leaving those they had been helping confused and having to start over again.
If the constant state of movement is FEMA’s ploy to keep anyone from knowing what is going on or helping, then it is working.
The disaster was horrific enough, but those affected by it do not need to be strangled by a red-tape-driven bureaucratic system whose left hand doesn’t appear to know what the right hand its doing.
We understand FEMA works on a reimbursement system, but it needs to rework its rules so they are more user-friendly for the everyday person affected by disasters.
In addition it needs to keep its people assigned to specific cases throughout the recovery and reimbursement process instead of moving them around so often. There is enough confusion during the recovery and rebuilding processes; we do not need more confusion caused by the government.
Victoria School district was fortunate Cloud was willing to work with them to get the needed reimbursement. Not all entities or individuals are fortunate to have that access.
“There are so many cases not only across our district but across Texas and other regions of the United States,” Cloud said recently. “Too often, those cases get lost in the bureaucracy of it all. We do our best to make sure they get the attention they need and that they don’t get lost.”
Prior to this, the district increased taxes 11 cents per $100 of valuation to raise money to start rebuilding its fund balance that was virtually depleted so the district could make repairs to every campus in the district.
According to information from the Victoria school district, it had $6.4 million in damages. So far, it has received $3.5 million in reimbursement from insurance and $1.3 million from FEMA. While half of the damages have been reimbursed, there is still a lot of work to be done to complete repairs, get the needed reimbursements and rebuild the fund balance.
Bloomington school district, which had $12 million in damages, has fared better in its recovery reimbursement journey.
The district will recoup a majority of the funds through insurance and is waiting for $638,000 from FEMA for three pending projects. After those projects are covered, the district will have fully recovered from the damage.
The district also received a grant from the Rebuild Texas Fund, which is helping with the rebuilding.
While it is impossible to know when the school districts will be completely reimbursed, they can only keep on working to complete the projects and keep working with the government to get reimbursed.