PA used as region’s standard for damage

Published 7:37 pm Friday, July 20, 2018

LUMBERTON — Dollars destined for disaster recovery in the three-county Southeast Texas Regional Planning Commission area will use Port Arthur as the basis for disaster need.

That’s because the funding formula will favor distribution of dollars to areas most affected by Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey in 2017.

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“This round (of funding) is for infrastructure and the local buyout and acquisition program,” STRPC Executive Director Shaun Davis said. “The housing stuff will come later this fall and will be a state-administered program.”

According to the information received by STRPC — it serves Jefferson, Hardin and Orange counties — Port Arthur had the highest impact totals with almost 89 percent of the population impacted by Tropical Storm Harvey. Bevil Oaks, Pine Forest, Rose City and Rose Hills Acres received 100 percent damage and received a special allocation.

“Since Port Arthur had the highest percentage, other than the four smaller communities, that becomes our 100 percent factor that everything else gets compared to. That is the top of the mark. As the percentage goes down, that ranks how they fit in to get their share of the fund.”

Davis said that STRPC can only allocate to cities and counties and that it would be up to those governing bodies to determine whether or not money should go to a particular project if the community decides that it is a priority.

Total allocations for Jefferson County were:

• Port Arthur, $15.7 million

• Beaumont, $13.8 million

• Jefferson County Unincorporated, $8.7 million

• Nederland, $6.5 million

• Port Neches, $3 million (opted out of the buyouts and acquisition program)

STRPC presented its method of distribution this week to people from their three-county region.

The purpose of the meetings was to present to the communities how the commission plans to divvy up the money allocated for the area and explain the formula the commission used to determine how much money each area would receive. Davis said the commission realized that everyone in Southeast Texas had the same damage.

“It wasn’t like other storms where there were some blown-off roofs. It was all rising water. We knew those impacted were pretty much impacted the same way.”

Davis said STRPC compiled numbers from the fire departments, drainage districts and any source that could tell them where the water was in the region.

“We fed that data into our system and it drew us a map of where the water was,” Davis said. “We overlaid that on each jurisdiction. Within those boundaries, our program could also calculate the population. It would tell us how many folks, according to the 2016 Census data, were in that boundary.”

Davis said they compared the number of people impacted with the population of each jurisdiction to get a “storm-impact factor.”

“Our challenge was to come up with a factor we could use to create a formula that we would apply that would determine where the money would go,” Davis said. “In past storms, the way we would do these formulas, the state would send us everybody’s FEMA numbers. We would use those numbers to develop these formulas. The FEMA numbers were just not usable this time. We had to create a method to give us a picture of the damage.”

Davis said the process behind the formula suggested people in more populated areas, with a higher percentage of people impacted, would have a harder time recovering.

“We just had to create (the formula),” Davis said. “I’m actually pretty proud of it. No formula is perfect. The hardest thing about disaster recovery for us is this process.”