Texas Recovers From Hurricane Harvey: Part 2

September 20, 2017

Pardon Our Dust

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The federal government expects to pay out $11 billion in insurance claimsfrom Hurricane Harvey, making it the second-costliest storm in the historyof the National Flood Insurance Program. (Katrina in 2005 resulted in an$18 billion payout.) With Hurricane Irma claims also to be tallied,however, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) says it needs moremoney. Currently, FEMA has just $1.5 billion in cash on hand and $5.8billion in borrowing authority.

FEMA estimated that nearly 80,000 homes in Texas experienced at least 18inches of flooding, while more than 23,000 endured five feet of water intheir homes. According to Gov. Greg Abbott’s office, FEMA has received morethan 735,000 individual assistance applications and has issued over $378million in emergency funding. Additionally, the Small BusinessAdministration has issued $172 million in small business loans.

The Texas National Guard redeployed 48 personnel to Key West, Florida, onSept. 18 to assist with relief efforts after Hurricane Irma. The deploymentcomes after the number of active Guardsman working on Texas’ relief effortsdropped from more than 12,000 to approximately 2,000 over the past twoweeks.

Office of the Governor

Governor’s Commission to Rebuild Texas

Abbott announced the launch ofwww.RebuildTexas.Todayto provide local officials with real-time information resources onHurricane Harvey recovery efforts, including available state and federalresources, and updates on the rebuilding of infrastructure, includingroads, bridges, schools and government buildings. A detailedplan for the Governor’s Commission to Rebuild Texas, led by Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp, includes the commission’spurpose, mission statement, organizational structure and initial timeline.

The commission’s central office will be located at the Texas A&MUniversity System offices in College Station. The Texas A&M AgriLifeExtension has made contact with county officials in their service areas tobegin regular reporting to AgriLife Extension management.

The commission will be structured to include the following:

  • An assistance center comprised of on-site experts knowledgeable of federal and state law, federal disaster rules, state rules, government procurement, and large-scale construction issues will be available to consult with local officials to assist with recovery efforts.
  • The commission has divided areas under the federal disaster declaration into five regions. Each region will have a team member(s) to focus on the area’s specific needs.
  • A response team will ensure a direct line of communication is maintained with Texas’ chief operations officer.
    • The team will focus on the review and distribution of any funds coming from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration to ensure rebuilding efforts are consistent across the regions and promote the potential for strong economic growth.
    • The team will establish a group of industry professionals and research experts to review all infrastructure assessments and other available data to recommend infrastructure construction and renewal practices, including approaches to maximize sustainability of reconstructed infrastructure in future weather events.

Governor Extends State Disaster Declaration

Abbott added Milam and San Augustine counties to the state disasterdeclaration, bringing the total number of counties under the declaration to60. A full list of counties included in the proclamation can be foundhere.

Office of the Speaker

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus issued interim, hurricane-related charges tothree House committees: Appropriations, Public Education and NaturalResources.

House Appropriations members are charged to accomplish the following:

  • Examine the use of federal funds by state agencies responding to the effects of Harvey, and identify opportunities to maximize the use of federal funds to reduce the impact of future natural disasters.
  • Identify the need for state resources to respond to Hurricane Harvey relief and recovery efforts, and opportunities for state investment in infrastructure projects that will reduce the impact of future natural disasters.

House Public Education members will do the following:

  • Determine, to the extent possible, the scope of financial losses, including facilities, as a result of Harvey; and recommend possible state actions, such as changes to student counts or property valuation, to mitigate any negative impact on districts and ensure governance structures and parameters allow for effective responses.
  • Recommend any measures needed at the state level to prevent unintended punitive consequences to both students and districts in the state accountability system as a result of Harvey and its aftermath.
  • Examine the educational opportunities offered to students displaced by Harvey throughout the state and the process by which districts enroll and serve those students; and recommend any changes that could improve the process for students or help districts serving a disproportionate number of displaced students.

House Natural Resources members will examine the following issues withinthe committee’s jurisdiction regarding Harvey and flooding in general:

  • The role of regional entities in developing projects to control flooding, through new infrastructure and enhancements to existing infrastructure
  • Mitigation efforts that would reduce the impact of future flood events, and strategies to fund those efforts
  • The response of public entities that own or operate dams to large-scale rain events, including how such entities make decisions regarding dam and reservoir operations during such events, coordinate with state and local emergency management officials, and communicate with the public

Texas Education Agency

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath confirmed that the roughly 250school districts affected by Hurricane Harvey will not have to sendrecapture payments to the state; however, they will have to apply for thosefunds to be used for Harvey-related repairs and recovery, and pay the stateany recapture money not used for recovery. Before districts apply to retaintheir recapture funds, they must first exhaust their insurance and federalaid. The recapture program, commonly referred to a “Robin Hood,” requiresproperty-wealthy school districts to pay recapture payments to the state togive to property-poor districts.

As of Friday, Sept. 15, over two weeks after Harvey made landfall, 52schools remained closed due to catastrophic damages from the storm. Another234 schools have significant damage and 678 have some damage.

Texas General Land Office

Abbott charged Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush with leading thestate’s short- and long-term housing recovery following Harvey.Commissioner Bush will work with the U.S. Department of Housing and UrbanDevelopment on the distribution of $7.4 billion in Community DevelopmentBlock Grant money to fund local infrastructure repairs, along with a“direct repair” program that will allow payments to homeowners to undertaketheir own repairs. The funds were included in the federal relief packagepassed in early September.

Texas Workforce Commission (TWC)

TWC received a $30 million National Dislocated Worker Grant from the U.S.Department of Labor, to be administered by FEMA and local officials inaffected communities to provide temporary jobs for people displaced byHurricane Harvey to help with cleanup, recovery and relief efforts. Localworkforce development boards will determine the needs of the most heavilyimpacted areas and place workers in those identified areas.

City of Houston

Mayor Sylvester Turner named former Shell Oil Co. president, Marvin Odum,as the leader of Houston’s recovery efforts form Hurricane Harvey. Odumwill coordinate with local officials, community leaders and nonprofits onrecovery efforts, and examine what steps the city should take before futurestorms hit the state’s largest city. Odum led rebuilding efforts forShell’s Gulf facilities following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He is aHouston native.

For more information, please contact a member of the McGuireWoodsConsulting Texas team:

Holly Deshields, Senior Vice President
Mark Miner, Senior Vice President
Jennifer Shelley Rodriguez, Vice President
Kwame Walker, Vice President
Amber Hausenfluck, Vice President
Cait Meisenheimer, Assistant Vice President
Jessica Follett, Research Associate