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One stop for home help: Offices to aid homeowners receive recovery money

Greater Port Arthur homeowners seeking federal assistance for repairing their properties can access applications starting Wednesday at the South East Texas Region Office in Beaumont or online at http://recovery.texasgov/hap.

The city of Port Arthur’s one-stop center for assistance for city homeowners also will open Dec. 4 at 501 Procter St. to assist homeowners with the application process. The office will be operate Tuesday through Thursday from 9-4 for an undetermined length of time.

“We want people to get their paperwork together,” Port Arthur Mayor Derrick Freeman said Tuesday. “It’s important that people fill out their application and get it to GLO.”

That’s because the federal program for homeowners will award assistance on a first-come, first-serve basis.  The state General Land Office is distributing the federal funds in Texas; about $205 million has been allocated to help homeowners in Hardin, Jefferson and Orange counties.

The Beaumont regional office, located at 505 Orleans St., will be open 8-6, Monday through Friday, and 10-2 Saturday. It is available to everyone in the three-county region. AECOM, an international engineering and consulting company, is staffing the Beaumont and Port Arthur offices for GLO.

To help launch this next phase of federal assistance, Land Commissioner George P. Bush will make three stops in Jefferson County on Wednesday:

• Bush will speak to the Beaumont Rotary Club luncheon, MCM Elegante Hotel & Conference Center, 2355 IH-10 South, Beaumont.

• He will be at the Beaumont Regional Office opening and application kickoff, 505 Orleans St.

• Bush will visit the home of Port Arthur homeowner Havalisia Owens, where he will discuss the assistance program application process.

Port Arthur planned the one-stop homeowner recovery site in late October, when the City Council altered its budget and allocated $127,000 to open the one-stop site at the 501 Building, owned by the Port Arthur Economic Development Corp. At that time, City Council members said the office would operate for 60-90 days.

Pamela Langford of the city planning staff said then that homeowners in making applications for aid would have several options from which to choose; the one-stop shop was planned as an effort to make certain that homeowners could seek guidance about what would make the most fitting application choice for their specific needs.

Options include, in some specific areas, buyouts that would enable residents in flood-prone areas to move and pursue new housing options.

GLO said in an issued statement that 48 Texas counties are eligible for aid. Of those, Houston and Harris County with $1.1 billion got the largest allocated share of aid.