State plans to take Hurricane Harvey funds from the city of Houston

HOUSTON – The Texas General Land Office is planning to eliminate the city of Houston's control of funding for Hurricane Harvey housing relief. In a letter sent to Mayor Sylvester Turner Wednesday, the GLO stated it was overhauling "all responsibility for administering disaster assistance to city residents."

The GLO argues the city has done little with the recovering funds.

The city reported approving 92 grants, totaling over $15 million. However, that is $15 million of the $1.3 billion, which was allocated to Houston over two years ago.

According to the city, nearly 6,600 homeowners of all incomes have been invited to complete the application. The majority are low- and moderate-income homeowners. Fifty-nine residents have received a "notice to proceed" to construction, and 44 have received a reimbursement check.

Bill King, a former mayoral candidate who made the recovery money a campaign issue, said he believes the lack of progress comes down to politics.

"The city tried to do this with a bunch of contractors that had no experience," said King. "You went and looked, and it was a bunch of political contributors, people who had no kind of experience in this kind of recovery effort."

The state has four years to allocate the funds to Houston residents, so there still is time. But how many have been forced to wait?

"Here we are two and a half years afterward, and people are still sitting there in houses that have mold, and sheetrock torn out, and just waiting, and waiting, and waiting," said King. "It's a disgrace."

Turner said the city is taking all necessary legal steps to preserve the city’s right to administer the funds.

Turner released a written statement in response to the GLO:

“In the face of unrealistic, frivolous requirements, the city has quietly worked to correct our issues, expecting the GLO to do the same. instead, the GLO’s lack of capacity for reviewing our files, their ongoing technical issues, their failure to provide clear and consistent guidance for what they needed upfront, and their slow-walking of many of the other documents required for our recovery programs contributed to the delay commissioner bush now uses to attempt to strip the city of its funding.”

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