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After Harvey, Texas Tries State-Run Disaster Relief, With Mixed Results

The scale of the housing recovery effort means some jobs normally handles by FEMA have fallen to the Texas General Land Office.
March 3, 2018, 7am PST | Katharine Jose
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In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, according to Brandon Formby of the Texas Tribune, "the Federal Emergency Management Agency worried that it didn’t have the capability to handle what was quickly becoming the largest housing recovery effort in American history." 

"So [Texas Governor Greg] Abbott tasked the state’s General Land Office with a job that typically falls to FEMA: running short-term housing programs for Harvey victims. That undertaking includes everything from lining up contractors for minor repairs to securing trailers for displaced families." 

Abbott has been criticized for waiting three weeks to employ the GLO for short-term housing, but "Abbott, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush and FEMA officials touted the unprecedented arrangement as a way to rewrite the nation’s disaster response playbook." 

Since then, Formby writes, "initial public optimism has crashed against the reality of trying to re-engineer an already-byzantine process of getting disaster aid to hurricane survivors." 

"The state-led plan was raising alarms from federal officials as well. The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General said in a Sept. 29 'management alert' that because FEMA still hadn’t developed policies and procedures for the disaster recovery efforts, officials in hard-hit communities had been forced to develop housing plans themselves on a 'disaster-by-disaster basis.'" 

In recent weeks, the federal government has promised a billion dollars for Harvey recovery by the first anniversary of the storm, with half of the money available right away. 

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