Lawmakers troubled by ‘minimal’ state resources for Harvey relief

3:55 p.m. update: Officials from two state agencies that help with disaster assistance told lawmakers Thursday there is little state money available for Hurricane Harvey recovery.

The Department of Housing and Community Affairs has about $15 million available for Harvey recovery, executive director Tim Irvine told the House Urban Affairs Committee. The agency can spend $3.5 million on helping displaced Texans with “essentials of life,” including covering energy bills, and $11.5 million in U.S. Housing and Urban Development funds for home rental assistance for about 1,000 families.

Officials from the General Land Office said the agency doesn’t have money dedicated to Harvey recovery. They explained to lawmakers that their recovery dollars are allocated after disasters. The agency currently has money available for recovery from Hurricanes Ike and Dolly in 2008, past wildfires and flooding.

General Land Office officials are looking for ways to redirect funding to Harvey relief, but the agency is limited in how it can respond, said Anne Idsal, chief clerk and deputy land commissioner. It’s an “unfortunate” and “frustrating” situation to be in, she told lawmakers.

The committee met to discuss the short-term and long-term housing needs of people displaced because of Harvey.

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Earlier: The Texas House Urban Affairs Committee will meet Thursday afternoon to discuss the short-term and long-term needs of people who were displaced from their homes because of Hurricane Harvey and storm-related floods.

Harvey struck the Texas coast near Port Aransas as a Category 4 hurricane on Aug. 25, with sustained winds of 132 mph. The brutal storm devastated numerous coastal and rural communities, and left large portions of Houston and Beaumont under several feet of water. The death toll as of Wednesday afternoon was at least 70, according to the AP.

As flood waters recede, Texans are returning to their homes to find them uninhabitable. Hundreds of thousands of Texans have asked the federal government for disaster assistance, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke told reporters on Aug. 31. Gov. Greg Abbott said over the weekend that recovery will cost between $150 billion and $180 billion, topping the $120 billion Congress spent for Hurricane Katrina aid.

The House committee is the first panel to meet since the end of the special legislative session last month. Abbott has ruled out calling state lawmakers back to Austin for a Harvey-related special session.

The panel will hear invited testimony at 1 p.m. in the John H. Reagan Building, north of the Capitol.

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