Harris County Gets First Big Katrina and Rita Check

More than two years after hurricanes Katrina and Rita turned Houston into a home for tens of thousands of evacuees, Harris County is just now getting its first check from the government to cover the money it spent to host the visitors. Here's more from Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams.

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The county has agreed to accept $20 million in disaster assistance funds, part of $428 million dollarsξ given to the state by HUD and FEMA to cover the costs it incurred during the evacuations in 2005. It's the first significant reimbursement from the government since the hurricanes that brought 150,000 evacuees to Houston and Harris County. David Turkel is the director of the county's Community and Economic Development Department.

"It's never enough, but it's certainly a start. We've had a very good working relationship with HUD and FEMA and with the TDHCA up in Austin, so we're just very, very pleased that we're getting this $20 million. We would have certainly liked to have gotten more but this is a very important contribution."

Most of the money will be used to replenish emergency funds at the Harris County Sheriff's Department, Harris County MHMRA and Transit Services, but another big chunk, around $6 million, will go to the hospital district.

"The one area where we're still not quite whole is with the hospital district, but this really makes a big dent in it. The hospital district provided medical services in the Astrodome during those first few weeks and their costs were well in excess of $6 million, but this was the amount that we were able to get for them."

The city of Houston was given $40 million as part of the HUD and FEMA grants. The rest of the $428 million was spread throughout the state.


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