Texas Left Holding Short HUD Hurricane Aid Stick
State gets a sliver of total it requested from Congress
State leaders have been madder than hell at the federal government ever since the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced last week that Texas will only get $74.5 million out of an $11.5 billion pot of hurricane aid for Gulf Coast states. The $74.5 million, all in the form of Community Development Block Grants, is a sliver of what the state requested from Congress. "They gave us little more than the change from their couch cushions," groused Gov. Rick Perry in a press release.
HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson announced Wednesday that of the five states that got a piece of the hurricane aid pie Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas Alabama got the least, just under $74.4 million, and Texas came in next to last. HUD gave funding priority to areas with the greatest housing recovery need, said spokeswoman Cathy MacFarlane, meaning the states that suffered the most damage to existing housing got the most money. As a result, Louisiana received the largest hunk of funds, $6.2 billion. She also said HUD gave priority to areas it determined to have the greatest unmet housing needs in other words, regions with housing problems that were unlikely to draw funding from some other source. For example, lots of homes in New Orleans have been passed down for generations, and many of them were uninsured when Katrina hit because their mortgages, which require flood insurance, were paid off, she said.
Back in December, Texas asked Congress for about $1.8 billion in the final version of the hurricane-inspired supplemental appropriations bill. (However, $1 billion of the request was for Economic Development Administrative Grants for 22 Hurricane Rita-impacted counties. Although the Economic Development Administration, a HUD partner located in the Department of Commerce, is one place from which the government can derive these funds, EDAG money can flow from other sources as well, said Perry spokeswoman Rachel Novier.)
According to a HUD press release, the department calculated the extent of each state's housing recovery need and unmet housing need using Federal Emergency Management Agency data, as well as information from the Small Business Administration Disaster Loan Program and U.S. Geological Service flood and storm surge numbers. MacFarlane noted that the $11.5 billion in CDBG funds is coming out of an $85 billion pot, so Texas still has hope for more money from Washington. "This is just a small step toward recovery," she said. And she tried to disperse any notions Texans might have of a heartless bureaucracy thriving within the distant walls of HUD in D.C. "It's like a parent deciding how to divvy up the food among starving children," said MacFarlane of having to allocate the disaster aid.