More than a third of the $3 billion in federal disaster recovery funds available for Texas after 2008 hurricanes Ike and Dolly remains unspent, as legislators prepare for hearings on how to speed up the process.
Several state reports and audits confirm delays in handing out the remaining recovery funds for larger projects, such as rebuilding infrastructure and replacing housing units, the Houston Chronicle reported Sunday.
The Texas Senate Intergovernmental Relations Committee is holding hearings across the state on ways to cut the wait time. The chairman, Sen. Eddie Lucio of Brownsville, is looking at putting rules governing the disaster-recovery process into Texas law, not in agency rules.
“We’ve known there is a problem forever, and it’s time we addressed it,” Lucio said.
Hurricane Dolly came ashore in South Texas in July 2008, dumping rain, swamping roads and destroying crops. Hurricane Ike made landfall in Galveston in September 2008, causing billions of dollars in damage and killing more than three dozen people.
Delays on getting recovery funds to communities have been blamed on issues such as federal bureaucracy, paperwork and policies in state and local agencies, and raising matching funds.
State officials have settled on the Texas General Land Office to handle such disaster recovery funds, the Chronicle reported.
Luis Arellano, the GLO’s deputy director for disaster recovery, said the process has been expedited and recently told Luico’s committee that the agency now is dispersing about $45 million a month.
Even that rate, lawmakers complained, is not fast enough for recovery projects since the 2008 hurricanes.
“This is unacceptable,” said Sen. Larry Taylor, who represents Galveston and other coastal areas south of Houston that were hit hard by Ike. “To hear that it’s going to take another two and a half years to get these recovery funds dispersed is also unacceptable.”
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