HOUSTON – Mayor Sylvester Turner and the city of Houston seek a temporary restraining order to prevent the Texas General Land Office from taking control of Hurricane Harvey disaster relief funds.
The city of Houston asked a Travis County State District Court Judge to prevent the GLO from seizing $1.3 billion allocated by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. Nearly two years ago, the federal government provided those funds to assist Houston homeowners, whose homes were damaged by Hurricane Harvey.
In April, GLO Commissioner George P. Bush sent a letter to Turner stating that the office planned on overhauling “all responsibility for administering disaster assistance to city residents.”
Bush said Houston had done little with the recovering funds, reporting that the city had only approved 93 grants, totaling $15 million.
However, Turner has maintained that the requests from the GLO are unrealistic and frivolous.
”The GLO is playing politics with citizens who need their Harvey damaged homes repaired,” Turner said in a release Wednesday. “I am disappointed the state agency is engaged in an illegal attempt to take control of the funds, without any regard to those who need help.”
Houston officials argue that the city’s disaster relief programs are successful and on schedule.
According to city officials, Houston has allocated $446 million or 35% of the total funds to homeowners. Another $153 million or 12% is already under a signed contract, with more contracts being signed weekly.
The single-family program has served 234 homeowners, with another 246 families submitted to or approved by GLO and currently being served, according to Houston officials.
The city expects to serve 1,000 families each year for the next four years before the contract expires. In total, the city aims to assist about 4,480 families from the six-year grant.
Houston officials also contend that the city’s programs are “better and more appropriate for the citizens” than the GLO’s plans, which proposed amendments that violate the terms of its sub-recipient agreement.
The city also claims the GLO has “demonstrated that it has a difficult time complying with HUD requirements and with establishing and communicating its own bureaucratic and confusing requirements to the City.”