Abbott and Texans in Congress request $18.7 billion more in Harvey aid

WASHINGTON (The Texas Tribune) -

 Nearly all of the Texas congressional delegation and Gov. Greg Abbott sent a letter Thursday afternoon to senior members of Congress calling for $18.7 billion in new funding to support Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts. 

In September, President Donald Trump signed into law a short-term, $15.25 billion measure to address the immediate emergency in the state and in Florida, which suffered serious damage from Hurricane Irma. 

"Texas greatly appreciates the appropriations committees’ efforts to swiftly provide funds," this week's letter stated.

"However, in light of the unprecedented damage from Hurricane Harvey and the historically epochal flooding of Houston, Beaumont and surrounding regions, we all recognize that the funding already appropriated is a small fraction of the federal resources needed to help rebuild Texas and reinvigorate the American economy." 

To give a sense of the scale of the need in Texas, state officials predict a recovery will cost $60 billion in federal support - from the U.S. Department of Housing and Department alone. 

The Texans addressed the letter to the leaders of the appropriations committees in both chambers: U.S. Rep. Thad Cochran, R-Mississippi, U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-New Jersey, and U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey, D-New York.

The letter requests $10 billion for projects by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and $300 million for Economic Development Administration grants, both of which would help construct preventive infrastructure for future storms.

Additional funding would also be used to redevelop businesses and state infrastructure damaged during the hurricane, with $800 million going to rebuild educational institutions and $150 million for transportation infrastructure, according to the letter. An additional $7 billion would go toward Community Development Block Grants and $450 million for disaster loans for businesses, homeowners, renters and nonprofits.

The delegation is going to great lengths to show a united front. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn's office released a photo on Wednesday of more than a dozen members meeting in his U.S. Capitol office. 

However, three Texas GOP House members of the 38-member delegation did not sign on: U.S. Reps. Joe Barton of Ennis, Kevin Brady of The Woodlands and Jeb Hensarling of Dallas.

Two of those three members responded to a query from the Tribune stating that their reservations were minor and each underscored their commitment to supporting the state's recovery.

“I fully support Governor Abbott, and am especially appreciative of [Texas A&M University System Chancellor John] Sharp’s outreach to our county and community leaders," stated Brady, a close ally of GOP House leadership.

"Having led Hurricane Rita recovery efforts in Congress for Texas – and last week secured $5 billion in immediate disaster tax relief for our communities – I’m working to better understand the complete long-term rebuilding needs of our state and how each installment of federal funding fits into it.”  

A spokesman for Barton emailed that the Ennis Republican generally supports the letter but does not traditionally sign letters to colleagues that he can speak to in person.

Hensarling is planning to write his own letter encouraging more federal aid for Texas, a Hensarling spokesperson said.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2017/10/05/abbott-and-texans-congress-ask-nearly-19-billion-more-harvey-aid/.

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The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

by Abby Livingston and Matthew Choi, The Texas Tribune


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