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Bush And Turner Criticize Congress For Delay In Approving Harvey Relief Package

The Land Commissioner and the Mayor testified before the Texas House Urban Affairs Committee during a hearing that was held in Houston



Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush (first from the left), who appears in this file photo testifying during a hearing of the House Committee on Urban Affairs, is criticizing the U.S. Congress for its delay in approving a disaster relief package that our state needs to recover from the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey.

Both Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner criticized the U.S. Congress on Thursday for its delay in approving a disaster relief package that our state needs to recover from the massive devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey last summer.

Bush and Turner testified at a hearing held at Houston's City Hall in front of the Texas House Committee on Urban Affairs to mostly address how the state of Texas is managing housing needs for Harvey victims.

The hearing was part of a series of hearings the committee, which is chaired by Representative Carol Alvarado (Democrat-District 145) is holding throughout the state.

According to Bush's office, almost 900,000 people have applied for some type of Harvey-related assistance from the federal government.

Back in December, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a $81 billion disaster relief package, but the Senate hasn't voted on it yet and the disaster package has become part of the negotiations held in Congress to avoid a government shutdown on Friday.

If the disaster package got the final approval in Capitol Hill, Texas would have to share those $81 billion with other states and U.S. territories that were also hit by natural disasters in 2017, namely: Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands, because of Hurricane Irma; Puerto Rico and –again— the U.S. Virgin islands, because of Hurricane Maria; and several western states –mostly California— because of the wildfires that devastated that part of the country.

The state of Texas estimates the damages caused by Harvey amount to $120 billion and, back in November, Governor Greg Abbott requested $60 billion dollars in federal funding, which would be used for infrastructure projects and housing assistance in Houston and southeast Texas.

“Politics has gotten in the way,” Bush told the committee members about the pending final approval of the disaster package by the Congress.

Alvarado agreed with Bush and commented that the fact the current political situation is impacting the relief is “unfortunate.”

Besides, Bush hinted that a potential shutdown of the federal government could slow down the post-Harvey recovery because of the protocols and guidelines Texas must follow in order to qualify for the federal funds.

“People are waiting, they need help, and we need Congress to act,” emphasized Bush during his testimony, while adding: “we thought by the end of the year we would have a final conclusion on the disaster recovery package and it’s been too long.”

Bush also underlined that eastern states such as New York and New Jersey –after Hurricane Sandy— and Louisiana –after Hurricane Katrina— “were more than reimbursed for their total property damage” and added that the Congress also provided federal funds that paid for flood and storm surge mitigation projects in those states.

During his testimony, Mayor Turner assured the committee he is “very, very, very disappointed that Texas has not been treated with the same degree of respect” as other states have been treated when they faced natural disasters.

On Wednesday, Turner also warned about the negative effects a government shutdown could have on the Harvey recovery.

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