Texas Capital Building
Sep 20, 2017

Texas Recovers From Hurricane Harvey: Part 2

The federal government expects to pay out $11 billion in insurance claims from Hurricane Harvey, making it the second-costliest storm in the history of the National Flood Insurance Program. (Katrina in 2005 resulted in an $18 billion payout.) With Hurricane Irma claims also to be tallied, however, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) says it needs more money. Currently, FEMA has just $1.5 billion in cash on hand and $5.8 billion in borrowing authority.

FEMA estimated that nearly 80,000 homes in Texas experienced at least 18 inches of flooding, while more than 23,000 endured five feet of water in their homes. According to Gov. Greg Abbott’s office, FEMA has received more than 735,000 individual assistance applications and has issued over $378 million in emergency funding. Additionally, the Small Business Administration has issued $172 million in small business loans.

The Texas National Guard redeployed 48 personnel to Key West, Florida, on Sept. 18 to assist with relief efforts after Hurricane Irma. The deployment comes after the number of active Guardsman working on Texas’ relief efforts dropped from more than 12,000 to approximately 2,000 over the past two weeks.

Office of the Governor

Governor’s Commission to Rebuild Texas

Abbott announced the launch of www.RebuildTexas.Today to provide local officials with real-time information resources on Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts, including available state and federal resources, and updates on the rebuilding of infrastructure, including roads, bridges, schools and government buildings. A detailed plan for the Governor’s Commission to Rebuild Texas , led by Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp, includes the commission’s purpose, mission statement, organizational structure and initial timeline.

The commission’s central office will be located at the Texas A&M University System offices in College Station. The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension has made contact with county officials in their service areas to begin regular reporting to AgriLife Extension management.

The commission will be structured to include the following:

  • An assistance center comprised of on-site experts knowledgeable of federal and state law, federal disaster rules, state rules, government procurement, and large-scale construction issues will be available to consult with local officials to assist with recovery efforts.
  • The commission has divided areas under the federal disaster declaration into five regions. Each region will have a team member(s) to focus on the area’s specific needs.
  • A response team will ensure a direct line of communication is maintained with Texas’ chief operations officer.
    • The team will focus on the review and distribution of any funds coming from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration to ensure rebuilding efforts are consistent across the regions and promote the potential for strong economic growth.
    • The team will establish a group of industry professionals and research experts to review all infrastructure assessments and other available data to recommend infrastructure construction and renewal practices, including approaches to maximize sustainability of reconstructed infrastructure in future weather events.

Governor Extends State Disaster Declaration

Abbott added Milam and San Augustine counties to the state disaster declaration, bringing the total number of counties under the declaration to 60. A full list of counties included in the proclamation can be found here.

Office of the Speaker

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus issued interim, hurricane-related charges to three House committees: Appropriations, Public Education and Natural Resources.

House Appropriations members are charged to accomplish the following:

  • Examine the use of federal funds by state agencies responding to the effects of Harvey, and identify opportunities to maximize the use of federal funds to reduce the impact of future natural disasters.
  • Identify the need for state resources to respond to Hurricane Harvey relief and recovery efforts, and opportunities for state investment in infrastructure projects that will reduce the impact of future natural disasters.

House Public Education members will do the following:

  • Determine, to the extent possible, the scope of financial losses, including facilities, as a result of Harvey; and recommend possible state actions, such as changes to student counts or property valuation, to mitigate any negative impact on districts and ensure governance structures and parameters allow for effective responses.
  • Recommend any measures needed at the state level to prevent unintended punitive consequences to both students and districts in the state accountability system as a result of Harvey and its aftermath.
  • Examine the educational opportunities offered to students displaced by Harvey throughout the state and the process by which districts enroll and serve those students; and recommend any changes that could improve the process for students or help districts serving a disproportionate number of displaced students.

House Natural Resources members will examine the following issues within the committee's jurisdiction regarding Harvey and flooding in general:

  • The role of regional entities in developing projects to control flooding, through new infrastructure and enhancements to existing infrastructure
  • Mitigation efforts that would reduce the impact of future flood events, and strategies to fund those efforts
  • The response of public entities that own or operate dams to large-scale rain events, including how such entities make decisions regarding dam and reservoir operations during such events, coordinate with state and local emergency management officials, and communicate with the public

Texas Education Agency

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath confirmed that the roughly 250 school districts affected by Hurricane Harvey will not have to send recapture payments to the state; however, they will have to apply for those funds to be used for Harvey-related repairs and recovery, and pay the state any recapture money not used for recovery. Before districts apply to retain their recapture funds, they must first exhaust their insurance and federal aid. The recapture program, commonly referred to a “Robin Hood,” requires property-wealthy school districts to pay recapture payments to the state to give to property-poor districts.

As of Friday, Sept. 15, over two weeks after Harvey made landfall, 52 schools remained closed due to catastrophic damages from the storm. Another 234 schools have significant damage and 678 have some damage.

Texas General Land Office

Abbott charged Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush with leading the state’s short- and long-term housing recovery following Harvey. Commissioner Bush will work with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on the distribution of $7.4 billion in Community Development Block Grant money to fund local infrastructure repairs, along with a “direct repair” program that will allow payments to homeowners to undertake their own repairs. The funds were included in the federal relief package passed in early September.

Texas Workforce Commission (TWC)

TWC received a $30 million National Dislocated Worker Grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, to be administered by FEMA and local officials in affected communities to provide temporary jobs for people displaced by Hurricane Harvey to help with cleanup, recovery and relief efforts. Local workforce development boards will determine the needs of the most heavily impacted areas and place workers in those identified areas.

City of Houston

Mayor Sylvester Turner named former Shell Oil Co. president, Marvin Odum, as the leader of Houston’s recovery efforts form Hurricane Harvey. Odum will coordinate with local officials, community leaders and nonprofits on recovery efforts, and examine what steps the city should take before future storms hit the state’s largest city. Odum led rebuilding efforts for Shell’s Gulf facilities following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He is a Houston native.

For more information, please contact a member of the McGuireWoods Consulting Texas team:

Holly Deshields , Senior Vice President
Mark Miner , Senior Vice President
Jennifer Shelley Rodriguez , Vice President
Kwame Walker , Vice President
Amber Hausenfluck , Vice President
Cait Meisenheimer , Assistant Vice President
Jessica Follett , Research Associate