Earlier this week, Houston City Council voted unanimously to approve a package totaling $424M in federal funds for Hurricane Harvey relief to be disbursed through the Texas General Land Office.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner told a local TV station much of the money will go toward repairs on existing homes, while a portion of the remainder will be designated to help renters find new places to live.
The Wednesday Houston City Council meeting reportedly included a vote on whether to accept the multi-million contract with the Texas General Land Office funded by the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Officials said the contract will help the city pay for programs to help victims displaced by Hurricane Harvey, cover home repairs, apartment rental costs or secure temporary housing in FEMA trailers.
They also said program will help thousands of displaced victims transitioning from living in hotels and motels throughout the state into more permanent structures.
More than three months after the storm, Houston city leaders say an estimated 15,000 families are living in 1,200 hotels and motels while they wait for assistance and a permanent move; FEMA recently extended the hotel program to Jan. 16, with the possibility of extending it further.
“It concerns me that so much of this is being delayed. It’s been over 90 days since this hurricane,” City Council Member Michael Kubosh said in an interview with Houston Public Media. “We’ve got to do better than what we’re doing. People are hurting.”
If the council approves the program, Houston leaders say more families will be eligible to move into FEMA trailers.
The agency says nearly 700 families are currently living in these trailers, with another 140 trailers either ready for move-in or in the process of being connected to utilities.
Their program is also said to be geared toward helping those staying in homes or apartments flooded out; many of those homes are a possible health risk due to mold growths or other hazards.
Some community organizers are coming out in support of the contract.
Texas Organizing Project Director Feldon Bonner spoke on the issue in an interview with Houston Public Media:
“We understand that there is a process, but we believe that because of the immediacy and the health issues that are involved that it should expedite things considerably.”