HOUSTON — Governor Greg Abbott was in Houston Thursday morning to sign four disaster relief and preparedness bills into law.
Two of those bills include money for Hurricane Harvey relief. They’re among dozens of Harvey-related bills Gov. Abbott said were passed during the session.
Gov. Abbott signed the bills inside the North Houston Gallery Furniture, which turned into a shelter during Harvey. He was joined onstage by state lawmakers from both parties, local leaders, and Gallery Furniture owner Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale.
House Bill 5 requires the state to create a catastrophic debris management plan and training. House Bill 7 helps communities plan for disaster waivers and contracts. Senate Bill 6 teaches local governments how to navigate post-disaster red tape and creates a loan program. Finally, Senate Bill 7 provides $1.6 BILLION in matching funds to pull federal dollars for Harvey relief, as well as money to pay for flood mitigation projects.
“Texas is gonna be better because of the laws we enacted this session in the Texas legislature,” said Gov. Abbott.
Gov. Abbott said that money is already available to hard-hit communities.
“Let’s say it’s matching funds, for example,” said Gov. Abbott. “They have to show that they have either applied for and been approved for and or have received the federal side of that, and then the state will match up. The state would obviously not provide the matching funds if the federal component part of it has not been drawn down.”
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the new state money pumps more than $200 million in the city’s recovery programs. It will allow the city to maximize the amount of federal dollars it can receive.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said these new bills will also help the county with its recovery.
“It’s more project funding for more projects we can do,” said Judge Hidalgo. “It will also help us be better prepared for future disasters. We’ll have some funding that we can draw down as soon as a disaster happens to do buyouts, to match federal funds.”
Robin Lennon, whose Kingwood-area sublet was destroyed by Harvey, says she’s grateful for the state’s response.
“I’m hoping that some of these funds they put away with the money, they’ll be administered in emergencies in a more responsive way to help the people when they need it the most,” said Lennon.
In November, Texas voters will decide whether to create one of the two funds authorized in SB 7. It would pay for drainage and flood control projects.
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