Mayor: Federal Harvey funding woefully short

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- A $44 billion funding package presented by the White House is woefully short of actual needs, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Monday.

The funding request was presented Friday. It's set to be split between Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and California. The proposal doesn't come close to what Houston will need for long-term recovery, Turner said.

"Don't just give us enough funding to put things in place the way they were before Harvey, put us in a position that we will be stronger, more resilient, and don't just give federal dollars for failure," Turner said.

Houston was being punished for having a smooth recovery, Turner suggested, saying that because the people of Houston didn't whine, the city got fewer federal dollars.

Another $5 billion will come to Texas through the Housing and Urban Development department. That money will come in the form of block grants that will then be dispersed by the state.

But reporting by ABC13 Investigates shows the state of Texas is slow to spend the funds. The state is still holding on to nearly $500 million in money handed out after Hurricane Ike. That storm made landfall nine years ago.

The city of Houston was lobbying Congress for a direct cut of the money. Instead, it will now have to go through the state, which adds a layer of bureaucracy and delays, Houston's flood czar Steve Costello said.

Part of the funding request includes $12 billion for projects like flood mitigation and "large-scale buyouts" according to a senior White House official.

Each project would be competitive, with cities and states competing for the funds, the White House said when asked by ABC13 about how those projects would work.

Those buyouts would be for homes that are repeatedly flooded. That would relieve some of the strain on the federal insurance program that pays to rebuild those homes after floods. At least one Harris County home has flooded 29 times over the last 30 years, according to data from the Natural Resources Defense Council via FEMA. Another 100 properties have flooded more than 15 times. Another 400 have flooded more than 10 times that data shows.

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