After hearing that Harris County would receive $0 of Hurricane Harvey flood mitigation funds, County Judge Lina Hidalgo made an appeal to federal officials to reconsider. (Courtesy Harris County)
The county flood control district had predicted that it and the city of Houston would receive $1 billion each out of the $12 billion of available federal funds, which are set aside for flood mitigation projects.
The county relied on those estimates when proposing its 2018 flood bond in response to Hurricane Harvey.
“We are doing our part. We are putting our own skin in the game. We committed the 2.5 billion bond that our taxpayers are paying for to match the federal funds we were expecting to receive,” Hidalgo told reporters May 21.
Texas General Land Office officials informed Hidalgo that the county would not receive any of the funds May 20, she said. In conversations with GLO officials, she said they were unable to distribute the funds to Harris County because it scored too low on a scoring matrix that was adjusted during President Donald Trump’s administration.
The adjustments made by HUD under the Trump administration placed counties with higher property values higher on the list of prioritized counties and required counties to divide the number of people affected by proposed mitigation projects by population. The two metrics put large counties with low property values closer to the bottom of the list, Hidalgo said.
Both Hidalgo and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner sent letters to current HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge, asking her to audit the funds and the grant process.
“The criteria was developed under a previous administration, and they may have signed off on it but…at this point we know the criteria disadvantages the area that needs these funds the most,” Hidalgo said.