Gov. Rick Perry today criticized the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for telling Texans "there is no compelling need to immediately approve" the state's application for continued Hurricanes Ike and Dolly recovery funding.
"HUDs comment is an insult to every Texan whose home or business was destroyed or damaged by hurricanes Ike or Dolly," Gov. Perry said. "Hurricane Ike was the costliest storm in history to strike Texas, and this process should not stand in the way of assistance for disaster victims."
The comment came in a letter from Assistant HUD Secretary Mercedes Marquez rejecting the state's application for the second round of funding for Hurricanes Ike and Dolly recovery. Texas received $1.3 billion in Round One funding and was slated to receive $1.7 billion in Round Two.
In rejecting the state's application for a second allotment of hurricane recovery funds, HUD faulted the state plan for not specifying how it would distribute funding to units of local government, despite the 67-page plan's detailed description of the formula used for allocating funds to Councils of Government (COGs).
"Clearly, it is lost on HUD officials that COGs are units of local government under Texas law, and the plan the state submitted discussed the COGs' role," Gov. Perry said. "Like other agencies in Washington these days, HUD overlooks the important role local governments play in formulating recovery efforts."
HUD also faults the state plan because COGs have not yet held public hearings. However, these concerns were never relayed to the state when HUD approved Round One funding for Texas in March 2009, or when it approved funding for Hurricane Rita recovery.
Gov. Perry said federal officials are playing politics with the funding decision because the letter from Marquez attempts to impose new policies and requirements that were never specified in guidelines on the Ike funding published in the Federal Register. For example, HUD criticizes the state for not providing "reasonable public notice," although Texas officials hosted eight public hearings to help formulate the post-Ike recovery funding application.
HUD's criticism also contradicts the citizen participation waiver notice in the Federal Register that "removes the requirement at both the grantee and state grant recipient levels for public hearings or meetings as the method for dissemination of information or collecting citizen comment."
HUD also raised concerns about the state's proposal to use some funds for projects that focus on mitigation of future disasters rather than "core recovery needs." Again, HUDs criticism contradicts federal guidelines that encourage the state to undertake such projects to draw down additional federal dollars from the Disaster Recovery Enhancement Fund.
HUD's letter requires Texas to submit a revised plan within 45 days, but imposes additional public hearing requirements and the development of new fair housing plans that HUD admits will take months to complete.
"The request that Texas update its fair housing plan would delay recovery, especially since the federal guidance that Texas will use to update its fair housing practices is not expected to be published before February 2010," Gov. Perry said. "Unless this is resolved soon, it will be Texans who will ultimately bear the brunt of the costs for recovery. Therefore, I also urge our Congressional delegation to make it clear to HUD that we will not stand for weeks and months of further delay. "