US House approves extension of $44M in Ike funds

November 19, 2010 3:13:44 PM PST
The U.S. House granted social services agencies in the Houston and Galveston areas a yearlong extension to use $44 million in funding set aside for Hurricane Ike recovery efforts. The cities faced losing the money when a Sept. 30 deadline to spent the block grants passed with no extension, which was later approved by the Senate.

The House approved the extension Thursday, sending the measure to President Barack Obama.

Ike came ashore Sept. 13, 2008, at Galveston in what was later described, by Texas leaders, as the costliest natural disaster in state history. Overall damage topped $29 billion. More than three dozen people died.

"We have a lot of people in our community committed to helping, and this will certainly enable that fine work to continue. It means we can restart," said Joe Compian of Gulf Coast Interfaith.

Programs and job cut after the Sept. 30 deadline passed now can be reintroduced, according to Compian.

Catholic Charities shut down a roof building program after only spending about half of the awarded $9.9 million.

The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston eliminated 66 positions and cut prescription help and food distribution programs. The medical branch lost about $2.5 million of a $6.5 million award.

The continued funding is expected to benefit 20,000 households served by the hospital, officials said.

The funding is "a vital part of our continued recovery," said Dr. Ben G. Raimer, the hospital's senior vice president.