Millions raised by Rebuild Texas on hold for now

Gov. Greg Abbott briefing on Rebuild Texas efforts on Sept. 26, 2017 (KXAN Photo/Alicia Inns)
Gov. Greg Abbott briefing on Rebuild Texas efforts on Sept. 26, 2017 (KXAN Photo/Alicia Inns)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Millions of dollars for hurricane relief are sitting still for now.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s commission to Rebuild Texas after Hurricane Harvey is growing daily. During a press conference Tuesday, Abbott said none of the money raised has been distributed yet, nor has the group identified which community organizations it will go to.

The Rebuild Texas commissioner, John Sharpe, says eligible groups need to fill out applications to be considered for the money and mayors or judges in the affected cities and county’s need to help.

“We need them to fill that out and get it back to us as soon as possible, every single one of them,” Sharpe said. “We call them every day and say get this stuff in. We know you’re killing alligators and other things, and you’ve got other things to do but it is real important for your communities to get that in.”

The governor promised the most immediate needs are being met for people, but he’s focusing on another piece of the clean-up puzzle.

“The most important thing all cities and counties can focus on is to remove debris as quickly as possible,” Abbott said.

The Governor’s Commission to Rebuild Texas consists of leaders from several organization including the Texas Education Agency, the Department of Public Safety and the Texas Department of State Health Services. Funding for the commission comes from each agency involved with the task force and various donors.

Gov. Greg Abbott briefing on Rebuild Texas efforts on Sept. 26, 2017 (KXAN Photo/Alicia Inns)
Gov. Greg Abbott briefing on Rebuild Texas efforts on Sept. 26, 2017 (KXAN Photo/Alicia Inns)

Abbott said the commission will be focused on public assistance such as rebuilding infrastructure and individual assistance, which FEMA will handle. He said the task force will help individuals affected by Harvey rebuild and navigate state and federal resources. It will also ensure that state and federal resources work together swiftly.

While the funds will be dispersed to community organizations or groups, some individuals who still need help are turning to FEMA. But some people’s applications are getting delayed or even denied.

FEMA estimates 80 percent of delays are caused by incomplete or inaccurate applications.

“Because of the recent hurricane activity, we are still backed up on the line so we are encouraging people to try really early or late in the evening,” said FEMA public information specialist Carmen Castro.

For those who are getting denied, it may boil down to human error.

“Many times it’s something small like a social security number that wasn’t input correctly or there’s something else involving their insurance company where all they need to include is that letter and they can keep the process going,” Castro said.

Statewide, FEMA has received more than 810,000 applications. It’s approved more than $632 million. More than 69,000 people are receiving temporary transitional assistance vouchers to stay at hotels.

In Fayette County alone, 674 people have applied for federal financial assistance. More than $3 million has been approved.

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