Disaster Funding Method Under Question

The Houston-Galveston area council is taking public comment on the distribution of federal money intended to aid disaster recovery from Hurricane Ike. Some Harris County officials question the method used to distribute the money. Pat Hernandez has the story.

The federal community development block grant funds are to go toward housing and infrastructure damage caused by Hurricane Ike. Under a preliminary plan to distribute the 814-million dollars in federal funds, Houston would receive almost as much money as Galveston. But communities hard-hit by Ike would be getting less. Harris County Judge Ed Emmett says the formula used didn't take into consideration a lot of factors.

"We as a county have raised some issues, cities have raised issues, there's a low to moderate income factor that is in there, and instead of applying it to the entire population, they only applied it to the number of household units that were damaged, and there are a lot of things that need to be worked through."

Like relying too much on requests for assistance to FEMA, without looking at where the most severe damage actually occurred. Judge Emmett says the plan short-changes the county's unincorporated and small cities such as Shore Acres, which is in Commissioner Sylvia Garcia's precinct.

"The formula doesn't quite make sense to me. I'm just completely baffled as to how they even came up with it. I had a chance to talk to some of the folks at HGAC and we're very hopeful that we can get it changed to make sure that the people that are most in need get the attention."

Garcia plans to attend the second public hearing at the Houston-Galveston Area Council offices.

"And I urge all those folks in the Bay area, in the areas in my precinct that got hit the hardest to come, because unless we change the formula and unless we change the allocation, we won't able to fully recover. That's what we need to do. We need to put everybody back to where they were before Ike."

Chuck Wemple:  "The main goal is to get this money out to where it can help our communities and our citizens recover from Hurricane Ike."

Chuck Wemple with the Houston Galveston Area Council led the development of the plan.

"While people may see some weaknesses in certain parts of the formula from their perspective, our task is to come up with a method that is as fair as it can be, and serve the affected region across HGAC, which are ten of the 13-counties."

The council will approve the method distribution at its board meeting next week.

Pat Hernandez, KUHF...Houston Public Radio News.
 

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Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...