FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 16, 2008
CONTACT: Doris Sanchez, Press Secretary
Phone: (512) 463-0385
LETTER TO STATE AGENCIES ON DISPARATE HURRICANE
Sen. Lucio Expresses Strong Concerns Over Draft Plan for Texas' Hurricane Disaster Reconstruction
Austin, TX--In response to a Proposed Draft Plan being circulated for public comment which provides less than 1.5% to the Lower Rio Grande Valley of $1.3 billion allocated to Texas for Hurricanes Dolly and Ike reconstruction, Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. sent identical letters to Executive Director Charles S. Stone of the Office of Rural Community Affairs and Executive Director Michael Gerber of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs urging immediate, yet diligent, revisions to the draft of the State of Texas Plan for Disaster Recovery.
As background, according to the Proposed Draft Plan, “Governor Perry has designated the Office of Rural Community Affairs (ORCA) as the lead agency, working with the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA), for administration of the $1,314,990,193 in disaster recovery funding received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for recovery from the damages sustained as a result of Hurricanes Ike and Dolly. While ORCA will be responsible for the overall administrative functions of the program and non-housing activities, TDHCA will partner with ORCA to develop the Action Plan and manage the housing activities. The Proposed Action Plan provides that the initial allocation of funding to the impacted regions will be distributed based on preliminary FEMA damage assessments as of December 1, 2008…” (Proposed Draft for public comment, State of Texas Plan for Disaster Recovery, page 5.)
Below is a copy of the letters sent separately to Mr. Stone and Mr. Gerber.
December 15, 2008
Charles S. Stone
Office of Rural Community Affairs
P.O. Box 12877
Austin, Texas 78711-2877
Dear Mr. Stone:
Re: State of Texas Plan for Disaster Recovery.
Thank you for allowing public feedback to the draft State of Texas Plan for Disaster Recovery. Unfortunately, I respectfully write to express my reservations and concerns to the “Proposed Plan” as it is currently drafted.
As you are aware, housing advocates have reported that there is ample room for improving the Proposed Plan because it is currently based on estimates from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that are incomplete at best, and faulty at worst. Because of these FEMA assessments that some are calling flawed, Lower Rio Grande Valley Hurricane Dolly victims would be getting less than 2% of the $1.3 billion that was allocated to Texas for both Hurricanes Dolly and Ike reconstruction. This means that Valley Dolly victims would only get about $15 million of the $1.3 billion (1.46%) for their reconstruction/rebuilding efforts. Such disparity, especially to a service population that is predominantly low-income, makes people question whether the drafters of the Proposed Plan actually took the time to visit with Dolly victims and witnessed their plight first-hand. A thorough, on-site walkthrough of the homes that were denied assistance would have made it clear how deficient FEMA’s destruction figures were and provided the necessary reasons why Texas’ Proposed Plan should be based on more thorough assessments.
As the media has documented, FEMA’s assessments for Hurricane Dolly’s destruction have come under question and are currently being challenged by local activists, as well as by those who fight for the rights of low-income residents. Accordingly, I hope you would agree that Texas can do a better job in helping Valley Hurricane Dolly victims who were denied assistance by the half-complete FEMA assessments. It is clear that it would behoove the state to develop its own cost estimates in an immediate, yet diligent, manner rather than base the Proposed Plan on figures that seem to be imprecise and that have left some Valley Dolly victims without assistance in their reconstruction efforts.
It is my hope that whatever plan is finalized takes into account the plight of low- and moderate-income persons (as outlined in the National Objectives) as they try to reconstruct and rebuild their homes, as well as, fill in the gaps left by past FEMA efforts.
Eddie Lucio, Jr.
State Senator, District 27
(Copies of actual letter sent to Mr. Stone and Mr. Gerber are attached.)