The city of Houston and Harris County won't receive a single cent from $1 billion in federal funds that communities could apply for and use for flood mitigation projects related to Hurricane Harvey.
The Texas General Land Office (GLO) will make the formal announcement on Friday, May 21, but on May 20, it told ABC13 Investigates it has already met with Houston and Harris County to let them know they were not awarded any funds.
The GLO said that neither Harris County nor Houston's applications scored high enough on a 2019 system used to score each application and determine how funds will be allocated. GLO said the formula tried to emphasize aid to low- to moderate-income communities and areas where the funds would help the most people. Both the city and the county said they felt the rules penalized dense, urban areas.
13 Investigates confirmed with the GLO and Harris County Commissioner Adrian Garcia that their applications were not selected.
The county applied for $900 million and Houston asked for a similar amount. Now, neither will receive anything. The Harris County Flood Control District also applied, but was not selected.
Baytown, Pasadena, Jacinto City, and Galena Park received a cumulative amount of $90 million in flood mitigation funds.
"[Thursday] we're told that the smallest cities, some of the smallest cities in Harris County will get a federal allocation, but not Harris County proper and not the city of Houston. Go figure," Garcia said. "This is political, folks."
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner accused the GLO of turning its back on Harvey victims and said Houstonians should be outraged.
"The City of Houston and Harris county account for over 50 percent of the damages from Hurricane Harvey. It is because of the damages incurred by Houston and Harris County that HUD awarded $4.2 billion in mitigation infrastructure funding to Texas.
For the State GLO not to give one dime in the initial distribution to the City and a very small portion to Harris County shows a callous disregard to the people of Houston and Harris County. And it is unfathomable that the State GLO would redirect most of these dollars to areas that did not suffer much from Hurricane Harvey.
The residents and businesses in Kingwood, Clear Lake, West Houston, Fort Bend Meyerland, Sunnyside, the East End, Kashmere Gardens, Spring Branch, and Acres Home should be deeply concerned and outraged.
HUD should immediately halt the distribution of the $4.2 billion in flood mitigation funding pending its review."
The largest chunk of funds — $190 million — will go to communities in Galveston County. The county itself didn't receive anything.
The funds will not be used for individual home repairs, but instead be allocated for large-scale projects, such as upgrading bayou systems and building retention ponds.
Harris County said it was not contacted about the technical errors and thus were not able to correct their application.