House passes hurricane funding bill

Published 6:17 pm Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A bill that could put Texas on a level playing field with other coastal states when it comes to getting hurricane disaster funds made its way successfully throught the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday.

The Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act will raise the federal reimbursement rate for Hurricane Rita damage claims in Texas to 90 percent federal and 10 percent state. In the first Hurricane Supplemental Bill, Texas was only set to receive 75 percent funding for Rita reimbursements, while Louisiana received 90 percent for damages caused by the same storm.

“The federal government has finally done right the State of Texas and not let state lines determine funding for disaster relief,” U.S. Rep. Ted Poe, R-Humble, said in a statement. “The people of Southeast Texas have fought long and hard for this funding and I will continue that fight in Washington until all our needs are met.”

U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, said getting the bill approved by the House was not an easy task.

“The uphill fight was in the House, but together with the invaluable help of our community leaders were able to deliver much-needed hurricane help to Texas,” Brady said in a press release. “This is a major victory for East and Southeast Texas.”

Both Congressman have made numerous visits to the storm-damaged parts of their districts, and have hosted local community leaders in Washington, D.C., to explain to other federal lawmakers the real story of the hurricane that was nearly forgotten amid the attention to Hurricane Katrina.

U.S. Senators representing Texas, Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, will be leading the fight for the supplemental as it goes back to the Senate for final approval.

“I expect the supplemental bill to pass overwhelmingly in the Senate as early as Wednesday, and to be signed into law by the president,” Cornyn said in a statement. “The Texas delegation will keep working to ensure that our state receives enough funding to meet our recovery needs.”

Hutchison helped write the amendment to the first Senate bill that included the 90/10 percentage increase for Texas.

“The hurricane recovery funds I secured for Texas in the Senate bill were based on emergency needs and received strong support from my colleagues in Congress,” Hutchison said in a statement. “Hurricane Rita didn’t discriminate along state lines and neither should the federal government. It is only fair that East Texas communities receive the same reimbursement rate as Louisiana parishes directly across the river recovering from the same hurricane.”

If the final bill is passed by the Senate and approved by the president, the bill would also bring much needed hurricane relief money for the Gulf Coast states affected by hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma.

The supplemental includes $5.2 billion in Community Development Block Grants, allocated by Housing and Urban Development. Decisions on the allocation of the CDBG grants will be announced in the coming month. Poe and Brady have appealed to HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson to make sure that Texas is treated equally in the allocation.