News Roundup: More Than $5 Billion In Harvey Disaster Relief Is On The Way

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelFebruary 14, 2018 1:25 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

Money for rebuilding and preparing for future storms is on the way for Texas communities affected by Hurricane Harvey.

On Tuesday, the Texas Governor announced $5 billion in community grants. There’s another $1 billion in hazard mitigation funds on top of that.

Houston Public Media’s Ed Mayberry reports.

The money announced by Governor Greg Abbott can be used for buyouts, home elevations, critical drainage projects, and for other disaster mitigation. And Governor Abbott says mitigation is the key word.

“Now we have said from the very beginning that as we rebuild, we wanted to do more than just rebuild like it was before,” Abbott says. “We wanted to rebuild in a way that would reduce future risk to property and to lives.”

Abbott says about $500 million in hazard mitigation funds is expected to be available immediately, and the $5 billion in community block grants could come from Housing and Urban Development as early as next month. Federal, state, county and city governments are encouraged to submit ideas to help mitigate future flooding.

The number of traffic deaths in Texas increased by 10 percent in 2017. More than 3,700 people were killed in auto accidents.

Mark Hanna is a spokesperson for the Insurance Council of Texas, a statewide trade organization. He says there are several factors contributing to the rising rate of fatal accidents on Texas roads – including the state’s growing population.

“But we’re seeing distracted driving a lot,” Hanna says. “In fact, we’ve had some people say it’s reached epidemic proportions. And I think just about anyone driving on our roadways today have seen distracted driving if not today, certainly in the past few days.”

State lawmakers took steps to reduce distracted driving last year.

After several failed attempts during the last few legislative sessions – the legislature passed a law banning texting while driving.

In addition to distracted driving, Hanna adds drunk driving still accounts for 40 percent of all traffic fatalities.

It’s been a little over a year since the Victoria Islamic Center burned to the ground. By April, a man is expected to stand trial for arson.

Construction to rebuild the South Texas mosque started a few weeks ago.

“We thought $1 million would be plenty to build the mosque and stuff. But as soon as we started talking to builders, we realized we were way off,” Abe Ajrami says.

Ajrami is a board member at the Victoria Islamic Center. He says they’re still about $390,000 short for construction costs. Plus, damage from Hurricane Harvey was another set back.

So Ajrami says they’re ramping up fundraising efforts in the hopes of completing the mosque this summer. Their Go Fund Me campaign, started after the fire, raised more than $1 million coming from all 50 states and more than 70 countries.