Abbott, Texas congressional leaders urge more funding for Hurricane Harvey relief

AUSTIN – Flanked by a Trump administration cabinet official and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, Gov. Greg Abbott expressed appreciation Friday for a $5 billion federal grant for Hurricane Harvey recovery, but in the same breath said money coming to Texas for storm relief so far has been “completely inadequate.”

The announcement that $5 billion was heading to Texas in the form of a disaster recovery grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development came during a largely congratulatory news conference in Abbott’s Capitol offices. The governor praised what he called a state-federal partnership in the wake of the storm that battered the Coastal Bend with winds and drenched the Houston area with floods.

“The urgency with which our federal partners are addressing the needs of Texans following Harvey is exactly what is needed to help them rebuild their lives,” said Abbott, who sat between Cornyn and Deputy HUD Secretary Pamela Hughes Patenaude.

But he said, without mentioning names, the pace of dollars flowing to Texas has not been as rapid under the Trump administration as when federal money was dispatched to New York and New Jersey when Superstorm Sandy pummeled the Eastern Seaboard toward the end of President Barack Obama’s first term in 2012.
Abbott said the dollar amounts proposed by the Trump administration’s Office of Budget Management do not “live up” to what the president has said Texas will need to fully recover from Harvey.

“The president has said he want this to be the best recovery from a disaster ever,” Abbott said. “And when you compare what is being offered up by OMB to what was provided in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, you’ll see that this falls short. Superstorm Sandy was half the storm of Hurricane Harvey.”

Earlier in the day, during a background briefing by phone with reporters in states hit by storms Harvey, Irma and Maria, the White House said it was seeking $44 billion in additional federal aid that the state’s could tap for rebuilding and to help prevent future flooding.

Set amounts of money would not be set aside for specific states, but states would make their best cases for receiving cash, the briefer said.

The $5 billion from HUD, which will be administered by Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, was not part of the $44 billion requested by the White House. According to a joint statement put out by HUD and Abbott’s office, the money “will support the repair of damaged homes, businesses and critical infrastructure” in Texas.

Abbott described it as “the next step in the long road to a full recovery.”

In a separate statement, U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold of Corpus Christi and several Republican other congressmen who represent sections of Texas hit hardest by Harvey, also called the $44 billion requested by the White House “insufficient and unacceptable.”

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who did not attend the event in the Texas Capitol, said the Trump administration “must keep its repeated commitments to provide Texas with the funding it needs to recover from Hurricane Harvey.”

Cornyn pointed out that all the administration is not responsible for appropriating money. That is the job of Congress, he said, and as the No. 2 Republican in the Senate he intends to make sure Texas gets its share.

“We’re not going to be asking to be treated any better than anybody else,” Cornyn said. “But we’re sure not going to tolerate being treated any worse.”

By John C Moritz

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