Local officials alarmed after Houston, Harris County denied federal funds for flood mitigation projects

HOUSTON – Roughly four years after Hurricane Harvey, some area leaders are upset with the plans to distribute federal flood mitigation funds.

“Upset is the most polite way to describe where I’m at today,” said Harris County Commissioner Adrian Garcia.

The General Land Office is set to announce which communities will receive the first round of funding for flood mitigation.

However, Commissioner Garcia said Harris County government and the city of Houston are not on the list.

“All of Harris County has been left out of the equation, including the city of Houston, and with the scientists, the engineers that we have, I can’t understand that our application would have any challenges,” Garcia said.

The money is for future flood mitigation projects in communities that saw damage during Harvey.

Garcia said the county was asking for up to $900 million to improve floodways and cover drainage projects.

“I’m incredibly frustrated, that’s why I’m not hiding my emotion,” Garcia said.

Harris County Judge Linda Hidalgo said in a statement, “It is unconscionable that the very community hit with the most flooded structures by far during Hurricane Harvey received nothing as part of this “Harvey Mitigation” allocation.”

“For the State GLO not to give one dime in the initial distribution to the City and a very small portion to Harris County shows a callous disregard to the people of Houston and Harris County,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a statement.

The GLO said applicants were all scored with the same criteria and the city and county projects did not score as high as other projects that will get funding.

The score was based on factors that include project impact and social vulnerability, or benefitting people with low to moderate-income, said Brittany Eck, communications director for disaster recovery.

Eck also said four communities within Harris County limits will get an award including, Baytown, Galena Park, Jacinto City, and Pasadena.

On Friday afternoon, Hidalgo said she will ask the Secretary of Houston and Urban Development to conduct a federal audit and review of the criteria used in determining who gets the funding.

“The worst off, hardest hit areas can’t boast of high property values. When you divide the impact by the size of our population, our score is, by definition, low,” Judge Hidalgo said.

Judge Hidalgo also added she’s asking for certainty that Harris County will be designated as a recipient of funds from the Harvey mitigation funds.

“We’re doing our part. We are putting our skin in the game. We’ve committed the $2.5 billion bond our taxpayers are paying for to match the federal funds we’re expecting to receive. We also need the federal government to do its part. We need to make sure that the formulas that are used are fair and don’t disadvantage large, urban areas that are hardest hit,” Hidalgo said.

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