DICKINSON, Texas – A city relief fund aimed at helping residents rebuild after Hurricane Harvey has some fuming that funds are sitting stagnant and not helping those who need it most.
The “Dickinson Harvey Relief Fund” was established in October. Local leaders asked for donations to help Dickinson residents and businesses recover from Harvey, which dumped nearly 44 inches of rain in Dickinson, according to the National Weather Service.
More than 6,000 homes were damaged in Dickinson, displacing thousands of residents.
Now, weeks later, frustration is growing throughout town.
Annette LeBlanc said she applied over a month ago hoping for help from the relief fund. But so far all she’s received is silence from the city.
“I don’t know what the hold up is,” LeBlanc said. “I’ve heard nothing.”
LeBlanc was forced to evacuate after water flooded her home and street. She waded through waist-deep floodwaters to a car wash a mile away. When she returned three days later, the water had destroyed everything inside.
City spokesman Bryan Milward said about 700 residents have applied for assistance, hoping to tap into the $1 million fund to help rebuild their lives. That money will provide up to $3,000 in assistance for residents and $5,000 for local businesses.
While the Dickinson City Council appointed a seven-member committee to evaluate applications and determine how much assistance each applicant will receive, coordinating schedules has been an issue, Milward said.
Texas’ Open Meetings Act requires a quorum, or at least two-thirds of the committee, to be present in order to conduct official business. To date, the committee hasn’t met that quorum.
One member also resigned, Milward said. On the city council’s agenda Tuesday is an item to fill the vacant position.
“We’re trying to get it out as quickly as we can,” Milward said of the funds. “But we want to do it in an open and ethical way.”
READ MORE: Devastation in Dickinson
Milward said there’s no deadline for the money to be dispersed but added committee members will discuss times when they can meet to sort through the applications.
“We understand the frustration,” Milward said. “We understand everyone impacted wants to rebuild as quickly as possible.”
Meanwhile, residents like LeBlanc are waiting for help they can desperately use. LeBlanc's home still needs sheetrock and flooring. Spaces normally filled by a refrigerator and stove sit empty. She still needs to shop for a replacement bed and couch. Her home was paid off before the storm; now she’s looking at taking out a loan to cover the cost of repairs.
“Any money would help,” she said. “And that money is just sitting there.”
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