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EDITORIAL — Reaping the harvest: Suddenly, new homes

Rhonda Masters of the General Land Office and Shaun Davis of AECOM delivered good news to the Port Arthur City Council that’s been a long time coming.

This community, ravaged by Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey floodwaters in August 2017, saw 80 percent of its homes flooded in some way.

This week, Masters and Davis reported that 222 homes here are in some phase of the construction process. Some of those projects might simply be in the planning stage — which floor plan? which colors — but they’ve been approved for federal money and contractors are being assigned.

Here’s what that means: The cavalry arrived. And when the construction companies get here, it’s ready, set, go!

Masters and Davis said the feds allocated some $265 million to Southeast Texas, money that’s being filtered through the state GLO office and which, finally, is being manifested in concrete, wood, nails and paint. GLO and AECOM have beaten the local bushes to locate homeowners who lost it all and beseeched them to sign up for available help. In Port Arthur, word got out better than in most places; some 1,000 people applied for the Homeowner Assistance Program aid and of those, 222 are in the building stage.

The state picked 17 contractors to work here. They’ve been vetted and bonded and chosen on the basis of their work quality, speed and for fostering good relations with homeowners who need their help. Here’s how fast they work: JWTC Homes, which built the first funded home in Port Acres, finished the job in 15 days. The company secured its last permit April 3; 15 days later, Havalisia Owens and her uncle were moving into a new, elevated home on property where she’s lived for 43 years.

Masters and Owens said others in Port Arthur may also qualify for aid, but the application process is demanding. Many of those who haven’t been approved for help have failed to produce important, necessary documents: ID, tax returns, proof of home ownership, proof the home was their primary residence on Aug. 25, 2017.

Applicants have been assigned caseworkers to guide them through the process.

More homeowners may be helped … but they’ve got to apply. GLO and AECOM urge those who need aid to visit the 501 Building, 501 Procter St., Port Arthur for help. Caseworkers are there from 9-4, Tuesday through Thursday.

Port Arthur’s government did all the right things to prepare citizens for help: established a visible office, informed their citizens, and assisted GLO and AECOM in doing their work. All the seeds were planted to help people who needed it.

Now homes will sprout up, the harvest for those who worked for their help.

Don’t be left behind.