Gov. Perry to U.S. Senate: Provide Texas with Promised Hurricane Aid
Reiterates Texas' $2 billion Hurricane Request at Appropriations Committee Hearing
Gov. Rick Perry today asked the U.S. Senate Appropriations committee to provide more than $2 billion in funding to help Texas recover from hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and challenged the federal government to make good on promises made to Texas in the wake of the consecutive disasters.
"Today I am asking the federal government to live up to its word. Federal officials made a solemn commitment to reimburse our costs for providing housing, food and medicine to hundreds of thousands of victims of Katrina," Perry said. "Less than four weeks later, when our state became the victim of a second devastating hurricane, more promises were made. To date, promised federal financial assistance has been woefully inadequate."
In testimony, Perry described the series of unfulfilled promised made by the federal government to Texas officials since the storms hit the Gulf Coast, including an assurance that Rita and Katrina victims would be treated equally by the federal government.
"Despite assurances to the contrary, Texans impacted by Rita are receiving less federal assistance than the victims of Katrina, and even less than victims of Rita in Louisiana," Perry said, citing discrepancies in the way the federal government is providing basic relief such as food stamps and debris removal reimbursements. "Mother Nature treated Rita victims on both sides of the border with equal wrath, and the federal government should treat Rita victims in both states with equal compassion and equal assistance."
Perry said that Hurricane Rita "seems to be the storm that no one in Washington wants to remember," despite the fact that the storm damaged or destroyed 75,000 Texas homes in Southeast Texas, approximately half of which were uninsured, and crippled electric utility infrastructure across the region.
Perry also testified that the federal government has not yet implemented a national housing program for Katrina victims - 400,000 of whom remain in Texas awaiting a long-term plan to return to their home states. Perry also said that Congress indicated Texas would receive up to $7,500 per child for evacuee students, including the 38,000 who remained enrolled in Texas schools as of February 2006. That amount is now projected to be reduced by $2,000 to $3,500 per child.
In January, HUD announced Texas would receive less than 1 percent of funds allocated for Gulf Coast recovery through Community Development Block Grants, despite verbal assurances from HUD officials that Texas would receive hundreds of millions of dollars for housing and infrastructure needs as a result of both storms.
"If Washington gives short shrift to a Good Samaritan state like Texas, it will send chills down the spine of any governor asked to be a good neighbor in the future," Perry said. "Our hospitals, schools and social services are under great strain. I know you have a tremendous obligation in rebuilding Louisiana and Mississippi, but don't forget the state that continues to host so many of their citizens and suffered its own catastrophic hurricane."
On Monday, Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, whom Perry appointed to coordinate long-term hurricane recovery efforts with the federal government, learned that federal officials have said Texas is not likely to receive additional federal funding because damage from Rita was caused mostly by wind, and not water.
"I ask you to view the situation from the perspective of the people whose lives were forever changed by these disasters," Perry said. "It doesn't matter to them which force of nature leveled their home or school or business, all that matters is whether their government is going to supply the promised aid they need to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives."
Perry called his $2 billion request "conservative, critically needed and carefully documented." Perry provided the committee a 94-page report that detailing the request, which includes:
* $498.3 million to assist local governments and utilities for unreimbursed repair costs for Hurricane Rita damage, including damaged or lost police, fire and EMS equipment and damaged local emergency response facilities.
* $412.6 million for education services and repairs to education facilities damaged by Hurricane Rita. $338 million of this amount will go to school districts to continue primary and secondary education for the school-aged victims of Katrina in Texas public schools.
* $367 million for housing assistance to Texans whose homes were damaged by Hurricane Rita, and to the nearly 400,000 residents of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama who continue to reside in Texas on a temporary basis.
* $170 million in agricultural assistance rural debris removal and damaged infrastructure.
* $126.2 million for uncompensated health care for hurricane victims, long-term care costs for Katrina evacuees remaining in Texas, and mental health services for those affected by Hurricane Rita.
* $125.1 million for social services and emergency assistance to provide case management, direct client services, emergency assistance and other social services such as Head Start for Katrina children, senior nutrition programs, and rural transportation.
* $115 million in workforce training funds for hurricane victims.
* $71.1 million for bridge loans and grants for small businesses affected by Rita.
* $59 million to be used by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for repairs related to erosion, waterway dredging and other related services.
* $54.4 million to repair bridges and highways damaged by Hurricane Rita.
* $18.7 million to assist local governments in areas with large numbers of Katrina evacuees in maintaining public safety upon the termination of FEMA reimbursement.