After Harvey, some legislators cite need for more federal help

Lawmakers on the Senate Finance Committee meet to discuss Hurricane Harvey relief. (KXAN Photo/Steffi Lee)
Lawmakers on the Senate Finance Committee meet to discuss Hurricane Harvey relief. (KXAN Photo/Steffi Lee)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Many of the costs related to damage from Hurricane Harvey are still unknown and state lawmakers are continuing to meet with officials to discuss recovery efforts.

“It has left people homeless,” said State Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, in her opening remarks during the Senate Finance Committee hearing on Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts Tuesday. “It has caused unprecedented damage and it will have lasting effects on our economy and our budget. However, it did show the character of our state.”

Several state officials testified about what’s been happening since Harvey. Commissioner John Sharp with the Governor’s Commission to Rebuild Texas says an issue that is often seen during the rebuilding and response phases are how people may not know how to fill out FEMA forms. He had a suggestion for what lawmakers could do to prepare for future natural disasters.

“We might think about a future addition to some agency somewhere where we would have a constant certification program, where someone in every city and every county knows this stuff backwards and forwards so that when a disaster comes, you don’t have to worry about filling out the forms,” he said.

Lawmakers on the Senate Finance Committee meet to discuss Hurricane Harvey relief. (KXAN Photo/Steffi Lee)
Lawmakers on the Senate Finance Committee meet to discuss Hurricane Harvey relief. (KXAN Photo/Steffi Lee)

“One of the biggest problems in all disasters is you wind up five years down the road and somebody didn’t fill out a form, didn’t dot all their I’s and T’s and got the money, but all of a sudden, they can’t find the paperwork filled out right. And you get FEMA coming back and clawing out money from a local community where the money doesn’t exist anymore.”

Sharp also outlined other issues the commission has been tasked with by Gov. Greg Abbott.

“We have collected from all of the mayors and all of the county judges and some legislators have had input on this, a list of the things they say they need from the federal government,” he said.

Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, said the federal government provided New Orleans with $15 billion for after Hurricane Katrina. He said he wants Texas to be able to get more support.

“The state pays a lot of federal taxes, so it’s not just that we’re asking for someone else’s money,” Taylor said. “We’re asking for money that we’ve paid for everyone else’s things. We’re asking for it to be spent right here as it’s raised.”

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