City of Houston plans to start issuing reimbursement checks for Hurricane Harvey recovery

March 14th, 2019

The City of Houston is clearing hurdles to issue reimbursement checks for Harvey-related home repairs by the end of March.

On Wednesday, Texas General Land Office Commissioner George P. Bush approved the city’s request to reduce barriers for reimbursing homeowners. Also, City Council is expected to vote Wednesday, March 20 on a key set of homeowner contract documents that will allow the city’s to sign contracts with homeowners almost immediately.

“I have fought for the resources Houston needs to recover from Harvey, and now I’m fighting to make sure we get help to Houstonians without delay,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said. “In disaster recovery, there are a lot of challenges for homeowners including requirements set by state and federal agencies. I’m looking for ways to make the process smoother for everyone.”

The GLO authorized the city to use an additional method of verifying how much homeowners spent on recovery, by allowing homeowners to self-certify repair costs that are then verified by the city. The city and GLO still encourage homeowners to document recovery expenses with receipts when possible, while recognizing that self-certification will help speed the process. “We’re grateful to Commissioner Bush and the GLO for helping us reduce administrative burdens, while making sure that we’re good stewards of federal resources,” said Tom McCasland, the city’s Housing and Community Development Director.

Once City Council approves the standard contract forms for the Homeowner Assistance Program (HoAP), the Housing and Community Development Department will move forward with signing contracts with the first round of homeowners for the reimbursement program option. The city will then verify repair costs and begin issuing checks to eligible homeowners. “Our target is the end of March to start cutting checks for reimbursement,” McCasland said.

Homeowners interested in participating in HoAP or other Harvey recovery programs should take the Harvey Recovery Survey at www.recovery.houstontx.gov/survey or 832-393-0550. The Survey takes less than 15 minutes, doesn’t require any documents, and is the first step in accessing recovery programs. More information is available at www.recovery.houstontx.gov.

Funds for Harvey Recovery Programs are provided by the City of Houston and the Texas General Land Office through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Program.

Talks point to local control of U.S. long-term recovery aid

March 22nd, 2018

After a recent meeting among representatives of the City of Houston, Harris County and the Texas General Land Office in Washington, D.C., Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett announced that local governments and the state agency have established a framework for moving forward on distribution of long-term recovery funds for Hurricane Harvey.

“I had asked for fairness in how the City of Houston would be treated – that the City be properly consulted by the General Land Office, per the requirements for these funds set forth by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development,” Mayor Turner said. “This meeting marks the beginning of that consultation. We are now on the right path to a fair distribution of much-needed disaster relief dollars.”

“I’d like to thank Land Commissioner George P. Bush for his collaborative efforts, as well as our partners at Harris County,” Mayor Turner continued. “Working together, we can put these funds to work for the kinds of long-term investments in housing and community development that will make our city stronger for the future.”

“It’s crucial that local governments have significant input into how these funds are distributed,” said Judge Emmett. “As the first line of response to those devastated by Hurricane Harvey, we are most familiar with what is needed and where. I genuinely thank our state and federal officials for recognizing our need for flexibility.”

HUD convened the meeting, which included representatives from Gov. Greg Abbott’s office. Abbott had selected the Texas General Land Office to distribute $5 billion in Community Development Block Grant funds appropriated to the State by Congress for Harvey relief last year. This is the second round of long-term recovery funding for Hurricane Harvey and is primarily intended to meet housing needs. Congress appropriated additional funds in January for infrastructure and mitigation.

The meeting was convened to begin consultations among the City, County, and State about how funds will be distributed and used. The framework gives Houston and Harris County local control over their recoveries and uses HUD’s unmet housing needs data as a basis for distributing funds.

The GLO will use the framework to draft an action plan, which is required by HUD before the agency will distribute funds to the state.  The public can comment on the draft action plan for 14 days before it is submitted to HUD for approval.

“This is a good first step, and the City of Houston plans to remain heavily involved in the process until we cross the finish line with HUD approval of the GLO’s action plan,” Mayor Turner said. “The sooner we have funds in our hands, the sooner we can implement a world-class community engagement plan and put these dollars to work for recovery.”

Armed with a clearer picture of how the funds will be distributed, the city immediately  will begin consulting with communities in Houston about how to use these resources to build a more resilient and equitable city.