The Texas General Land Office has proposed a plan to help mitigate damage from Hurricane Harvey – damage that some homeowners are still dealing with over two years later. Over $4 billion in federal community development block grants will go to those affected. But first, local governments have to figure out how, exactly, to spend the money.
Patrick Rios is mayor of Rockport – the Gulf Coast town near where Harvey first made landfall. He says Rockport plans to use the money to prepare the city for future storms.
“We’re looking at how we can make our community more resilient, harden our resources against any future storm,” he says. “We know there’ll be another storm, we just don’t know when.”
He says in practice, mitigation will involve improving the city’s infrastructure – things like streets, storm drainage and water treatment plants.
But Rockport is competing against much larger cities along the Gulf Coast for its slice of the $4 billion. Rios says thankfully, Houston isn’t one of them; it’s using a different pot of money for Harvey recovery. Rockport’s strategy is to partner with nearby cities like Corpus Christi, Port Aransas and others to get the best use out of the money.
“If we look at it again from a regional perspective … it’ll give us bigger advantage in competition for those funds,” Rios says.
He says Rockport is still waiting for other monies promised by federal and state governments after Harvey.
In the meantime, he says tourism drives the economy, and hotels and other businesses are mostly back in business since the storm. But finding people to work in them is the hard part.
“It can be frustrating at times,” he says. “We just need to get everything back in place.”
Written by Caroline Covington.