Federal government halts nearly $2 billion in Hurricane Harvey relief aid for Texas

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has halted the distribution of $1.95 billion that was approved for flood mitigation projects in Texas following Hurricane Harvey.

A news release from HUD said the Texas General Land Office failed to provide paperwork detailing how the money would be spent to help people and communities at risk of natural disasters and climate change and said the state has 45 days to provide the information.

"We look forward to receiving and reviewing Texas's submission of the additional information needed for approval," the Friday statement said. "We are hopeful that Texas will take the steps needed to begin much-needed, forward-looking mitigation projects in the state."

Brittany Eck, spokesperson for Land Commissioner George P. Bush, said the agency provided a 628-page document to HUD that satisfied the required paperwork.

"This is a purely political move by HUD considering they notified the Houston Chronicle more than an hour before it notified its grantee, the State of Texas. The Houston Chronicle (previously) quoted the HUD as saying, Texas is 'responsible for creating the allocation formula and has 'full responsibility and jurisdiction over who gets the money that was allocated to the state for flood mitigation.' But now, their tune has changed," Eck said in a statement on Monday. "Which is it? The partisan political game being played by the Biden Administration is putting Texans at risk. HUD must approve this funding now, before the next storm hits."

Congressman Al Green of Houston spoke about the disaster relief funds on Saturday, saying that the state of Texas needed to do more to produce a meaningful plan, so that the poor are not left behind.

Green also commented on Houston and Harris County being left out of the plan when the areas were "in a sense the epicenter of Hurricane Harvey. For Houston to be left behind is inconceivable."

"The initial plan left both Houston and Harris County behind, but it is inconceivable that the new plan would still exclude Houston. My hope is that some adjustment will be made such that the people of Houston will receive the kind of help that is sorely and desperately needed," the congressman continued.

Green, a Democrat, is on the housing subcommittee in Congress, explaining that the funding should not be a political issue.

"I'm not here to take shots at persons for political reasons. It's not about whether you're a Democrat or a Republican. It's about whether you are suffering and you need help," he said.

Green also called on the state to "do better" when it comes to helping minorities and the poor.

"The GLO has to present to HUD a plan that gives an assessment of how the fund will be used for poor people for racial and ethnic minorities," Green said.

As to why Houston would be left out of the plan, Green was stumped.

"We've had not only persons from the Democratic party but persons from the Republican party who are baffled by this. We're all amazed that Houston is being left out when the damage in the state of Texas occurred here in Houston and Harris County for the most part," he said. "We can't allow whatever that reason is to prevent us from receiving those funds."

Congress in 2018 approved about $4.3 billion in mitigation funding to Texas following Hurricane Harvey, which struck in 2017 and caused an estimated $125 billion in damage in the state, largely in Houston and Harris County.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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