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Everything in one place: PA fast-tracks one-stop housing aid office

Port Arthur leaders are fast-tracking the city’s planned “one-stop shop” for advising residents who have been beleaguered with housing problems related to Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey, which may have flooded as much as 80 percent of the city’s residences.

In a unanimous vote, the City Council in a special meeting Tuesday approved a $127,000 adjustment to the Fiscal Year 2019 budget, money that will fund start-up operations at the consolidated city office, to be located at 501 Procter St., where city employees and other counselors will help residents choose appropriate applications for seeking federal aid. That money would fund operations for some 60-90 days.

District 3 Councilman Thomas Kinlaw said the vote represents the city’s efforts to move quickly and efficiently on behalf of residents who’ve been thus far unable to get federal help with rebuilding their homes. The storm hit the Jefferson County on Aug. 30, 2017.

That aid may come available by Dec. 1; Mayor Derrick Freeman said it could come by Thanksgiving and he and the City Council want to make sure that applications for help from Port Arthur residents are effectively prepared. They are aiming to have the one-stop office in place by mid-November.

Kinlaw said the one-stop area would put “everything in one place” — advice, applications, etc. — where residents can review federal aid options and pursue them in one place.

“Port Arthur was the most heavily hit area in the region,” he said, and its residents would benefit greatly if eligible homeowners and residents move fast.

Last week, Pamela Langford of the city planning staff told City Council members that several federal assistance options soon would be set before eligible applicants. They include buyouts in some areas — in one area, there’s $4.1 million available for specific neighborhoods — and buyouts, paired with other assistance, may enable homeowners to buy new homes.

Other residents may apply for a share of $205 million that’s been allocated for a three-county region: Jefferson, Hardin and Orange counties. That pot of money will likely go first come, first serve, which means eligible Port Arthur people must apply early to get to the front of the line.

The “one-stop shop” will be formally known as the Disaster Recovery Housing Development Center. The Port Arthur Economic Development Corp. will allocate the space at the 501 Building downtown.

In other action, the City Council awarded contracts to three companies for asbestos/lead abatement and demolishing six dangerous commercial properties downtown, five on Procter Street and one on Rev. Ransom Howard Drive.