This week I joined 30 members of the Texas delegation to pass the second disaster supplemental appropriations bill which ensures there is no gap in the flow of federal funding following Hurricane Harvey. The bill provides a total of $36.5 billion in funding to help Houstonians continue recovery, including $18.7 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund and $16 billion in existing debt forgiveness for the National Flood Insurance Program. Texas is expected to receive at least $15 billion of this funding.
The debt forgiveness allows the NFIP to pay $11 billion in claims for Texas homeowners affected by Hurricane Harvey. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria occurred in such quick succession that the program drew down its reserves quicker than expected, and the program was going to run out of money within the next few weeks. This funding is essential to continue the recovery process across the Gulf Coast, and it will ensure Texas homeowners who filed flood insurance claims will receive the payout they deserve.
Many Houstonians are still displaced from their homes and are navigating the recovery process. The additional $4 billion for Texas through the Disaster Relief Fund will allow FEMA to continue providing individual and public assistance. Individual assistance can provide for a number of housing needs as well as other disaster caused expenses including, but not limited to, child care, medical and dental care, and damage to an essential vehicle. Public assistance grants are vital for communities conducting emergency work such as debris removal and emergency protective measures, along with providing for permanent work to repair damaged infrastructure. The additional funding provided in this bill ensures FEMA has the resources it needs to continue providing assistance to individuals and communities affected by Harvey.
This bill is the second step in providing the assistance communities need to recover from recent natural disasters, but more must be done. Last week, Governor Abbott, both of our Texas Senators, and 33 members of the House sent a letter to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees outlining additional needs for the State of Texas. Over the coming weeks, as the damage assessments in Texas are finalized and the unmet needs identified, I will be working closely with the Texas Congressional Delegation, Speaker Ryan, and House Appropriations Chairman Frelinghuysen to develop a comprehensive relief package that will address the long-term rebuilding needs of Texas.
My top priorities for the final disaster package are to ensure that those impacted by the storm are provided the resources they need to rebuild, and to repair and expand our flood control infrastructure to mitigate future flood damage.
I know that many individuals are still in the early stages of rebuilding, which is why I encouraged Governor Abbott to ask for an extension of Transitional Sheltering Assistance for individuals who have been unable to return to their homes. The Governor submitted an official request for an extension to FEMA, which was approved. The housing assistance will now last through October 24, but I am carefully monitoring further needs and am prepared to request additional extensions of the program.
As a reminder, the deadline to apply for FEMA individual assistance is October 26, and the Small Business Administration loan application deadline is October 24. If you need assistance after filing your claim, please contact my district office at 713-682-8828. While my office cannot change the decisions made by FEMA or SBA, we can help you navigate through the process.
My staff and I are working every day to find every federal dollar we can to send to Texas as fast as possible to assist in the district’s recovery. It is an honor and privilege to represent you and Texas in the United States House.