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Will Texas Have Enough Workers For Long-Term Recovery After Hurricane Harvey?

A state legislative committee is hearing testimony in south Texas this week on how to maintain a ready workforce after natural disasters

One of the big workforce issues after a hurricane is purely practical, and that’s having places for recovery workers to live so they won’t have to drive in from long distances.

Port Isabel City Manager Jared Hockema was one of the officials testifying before the House Business and Industry Committee at a hearing held on South Padre Island.

“We already don’t have housing for our existing workforce right now,” said Hockema. “And so if you look at the people working in these hotels and restaurants, they don’t live here because we do not have adequate affordable housing.”

Hockema said one thing the state can do is give counties more authority to establish building and floodplain regulations. That could lead to more storm-resistant housing.

“Those tools are what allow you to establish a resilient, robust housing stock that can withstand a hurricane,” explained Hockema. “So you don’t lose such a large percentage of your housing and you have that housing available for your workforce.”

Also testifying was South Padre Island City Manager Susan Guthrie, who said affordable housing is also an issue in her community. Guthrie said most of their city workers don’t even live on the island and commute from nearby communities.

“Getting workforce, just the general workforce here post-storm, much less the relief workers, is really a challenge,” added Guthrie. “And especially when you’re talking about one way on, one way off this island.”

The committee will hold another hearing Thursday in Brownsville.

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Gail Delaughter

Gail Delaughter

Transportation Reporter

From early-morning interviews with commuters to walks through muddy construction sites, Gail covers all aspects of getting around Houston. That includes walking, driving, cycling, taking the bus, and occasionally flying. Before she became transportation reporter in 2011, Gail hosted weekend programs for Houston Public Media. She's also covered courts in...

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