Questions also remain about accountability and transparency for those organizations that released water during Harvey. You deserve answers, and we can’t expect to fully be able to rebuild and move on without ever knowing if homes can be flooded again by those organizations’ decisions. I introduced the bipartisan Texas Flood Accountability Act to require the Army Corps of Engineers, San Jacinto River Authority, City of Houston and others to submit a report within 90 days for all dams, reservoirs, lakes and other water retention facilities in Southeast Texas. This bill requires that these entities report on the water capacity, overflow levels, notification processes during flood emergencies, and recommendations to prevent future unplanned releases of water from the facilities. Failure to submit this information will result in a loss of federal funding to the agency.
Q: I registered for assistance with FEMA but haven’t heard from an inspector. What can Ido?
A: Harvey’s impact was historic. Nearly 800,000 individuals in Texas have registered for FEMA assistance. FEMA has deployed more than 2,900 inspectors to Texas and has completed approximately 65% of applications, but due to the magnitude of the damage, it is now taking up to 45 days for a FEMA inspector to contact an applicant and schedule an inspection. If you have registered and are still waiting to hear from an inspector, call my office at (281) 446-0242.
My office will contact FEMA on your behalf. Remember that you should not wait to clean up. Be sure to take a lot of pictures of the damage and any receipts to show the inspector.
Q: SBA rejected my loan application. Why? What can I do?
A: The letter provided by SBA will list the reasons for the denial and inform you that you have 6 months to request a reconsideration. If you would like to request a reconsideration, my office can help you route the completed documents to the appropriate office for consideration. Call my office at (281) 446-0242.
Q: Is FEMA assistance income-based? Why did my neighbor get more assistance than me?
A: FEMA’s assistance is damage-based, not income-based. FEMA has advised that they look at each home and assess damage individually. Your neighbor’s home may have had more damage. But if you have received FEMA assistance but are unsatisfied with the amount provided, you can still appeal it. Call my office at (281) 446-0242 for help submitting an appeal to FEMA.
Q: Is FEMA assistance a loan? Is FEMA assistance taxable?
A: FEMA assistance is a grant, not a loan. A FEMA grant does not have to be repaid and is not taxable.
Q: Does FEMA pay for mold remediation? Are there contractors that FEMA uses?
A: FEMA provides financial assistance to individuals through a grant that you can use for your needs. FEMA does not pay contractors or vendors directly. There is no list of approved contractors.
Q: Do I need a permit from Harris County to start sheetrock and flooring repairs? How long does it take to receive a building permit?
A:For all permit-related questions, please call (713) 274-3880 or visit here.
Q: I’m trying to get my D-SNAP benefits but the line is way too long. What can I do?
A:After hearing several complaints about the long wait lines at D-SNAP distribution facilities, my office contacted the Governor’s office, which oversees this program. The hours at area facilities will be extended, and the lines are expected to lessen quickly.
For those unfamiliar with the program, the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) offers short-term food assistance benefits to families affected by a disaster. D-SNAP offers a one-time benefit for food assistance to families recovering from a disaster. The amount is equal to two months of the maximum amount of SNAP benefits, based on household size. It is designed to help when people return ot heir homes and have access to electricity and grocery stories. It is only available for those who were not receiving regular SNAP benefits at the time of the disaster. Benefits are issued via an electronic benefit transfer card, called a Lone Star Card, which you can use to purchase food at any SNAP-authorized retailer. To apply, visit YourTexasBenefits.com or call 2-1-1 (1-877-541-7905) and select Option 2.
Q: What is happening with debris cleanup?
A: Harris County is conducting three rounds of debris cleaning and is approximately halfway through the first round. For residents in unincorporated Harris County, you can also call (713) 274-3880, a hotline set up by the county to advise on debris removal process. If you in incorporated Harris County, please visit here.
I heard from several veterans in our community who lost some of their educational benefits after Harvey when Lone Star College-Kingwood closed. Veteran education assistance is based upon presence in a physical classroom, so when only online classes were offered, some veterans found themselves ineligible for half of their funding and scrambling to pay their rent and bills. The Department of Veterans Affairs has a 4-week waiver to allow veterans to receive full benefits after a natural disaster, but I introduced the bipartisan Veterans Education Disaster Assistance Actto extend that waiver to cover an entire semester. This simple yet necessary legislation provides relief for student veterans who are simply trying to continue their education but are denied assistance based on circumstances outside of their control.
Lastly, Congress will vote again next week on another funding bill for $29 Billion that will help Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico with its recovery efforts. This is the second funding package, after we passed $15.25billion in emergency aid a few weeks ago. There will also be a third bill to provide even more funding before the end of the year. I, along with many fellow members of the Texas delegation believe that while the $29 billion package is a start, Texas needs additional funding as soon as possible. Therefore, the Texas Delegation and Governor Abbott sent a letter to House and Senate Members of the Appropriations Committee asking for even further funds for:
(1) communities and neighborhoods to continue to rebuild;
(2) the Army Corps of Engineers to rehabilitate and repair damages, dredge navigation channels, and to take actions to protect areas from further flooding;
(3) to help repair damaged schools so they can reopen and serve students at all levels;
(4) SBA low-interest, disaster loans to help individuals, small businesses, and nonprofits get back on their feet;
(5) economic assistance for areas that suffered economic hardship; and
(6) to improve the infrastructure of our highway and transit systems so they are serviceable and restored to help ensure movement of emergency supplies.
As always, please stay in touch with your thoughts and recommendations. And remember, if you need help with federal assistance from Harvey, please call my office at (281) 446-0242.
GOD and TEXAS,
Member of Congress