Weber: Release rules, fund mitigation

Published 6:51 pm Friday, January 11, 2019

A world governed by bureaucracy and red tape often fails to appropriately help its citizenry.

Hurricane Harvey devastated many of our lives 16 months ago after coming ashore, breaking previous rainfall records and leaving behind billions of dollars in damage. Much has been done to clean up, rebuild and mitigate future damage, but much still remains to be done.

Two weeks after Harvey, your U.S. Congress began appropriating funds to disaster-stricken Texas. As the months continued, additional funding spanned coast-to-coast with wildfires in the West and hurricanes along the East. The third tranche of funding passed in February 2018 — almost one year ago.

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Since then, money appropriated by Congress and approved by the president remains held up by the omnipresent administrative state, specifically in the Office of Management and Budget. Under the current process, funds appropriated by Congress can only be accessed by the states needing the assistance after an arduous process involving rulemaking by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. After rules are set, the states must then draft an action plan, translate it in to several languages, post it for a public comment period and then send it to HUD for final agency approval.

The action plan process generally takes four to six months to complete. This can only begin once HUD sets the initial rules, which has not happened because OMB has failed to approve the rules.

Keep in mind, agency bureaucrats are not under any public accountability to meet a deadline for approving these rules.

Meanwhile, hurricane season will be here before we know it, and we are still waiting.

If OMB releases the rules tomorrow, we just might complete the process shortly before hurricane season begins. Even then, we could barely begin to distribute the funds before June 1, let alone begin construction.

Texans are working overtime to get back on our feet. We always have and always will. From our forefathers at the Alamo; to our leaders after the Great Hurricane of 1900; to our current hardworking men and women who risked their lives to save others before immediately working to help their neighbors rebuild — Texans prove our work ethic time and time again.

Following Harvey, we rallied to form teams tasked with specific roles. Continuous communication is flowing between local, state and federal officials, and has been since even before landfall.

For the first time I can ever recall, all 38 Texas members — Republicans and Democrats, representatives and senators — joined forces as a united front to provide all the services and help possible from the federal level.

Our state and local agencies’ contributions of time, resources and attention is unmatched. Their efforts and your attitudes are more humbling and honorable than I can say.

In a time when the cashflow from federal agencies remains uncertain at best, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush’s efforts to spearhead Harvey recovery are unparalleled and a tremendous help.

We’ve sat with you. We’ve heard your stories. We’ve toured your homes multiple times, seeing the progress you’ve made despite all odds. We commend you.

Congress has done its job. It’s time for OMB to do the same.

Release the rules.

Hurricane season doesn’t wait for the government, those rebuilding after a devastating disaster shouldn’t have to either.

Releasing the rules, given funds are already appropriated, is common sense. There’s no reason to hold onto the money, keeping those affected by disaster waiting.

We waited long enough.

Rep. Randy Weber, R-Friendswood, represents Greater Port Arthur in the U.S. House of Representatives.