Abbott requests $370.8 million to ‘help rebuild South Texas’

Gov. Greg Abbott requested more than $370 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s disaster recovery program, in a letter sent to HUD Secretary Ben Carson last week.

Hidalgo County Precinct 1 Commissioner David Fuentes told local leaders about the letter during a meeting Monday, adding he is “very thankful” to Abbott for requesting the funds.

HUD, through its Community Development Block Grant disaster recovery assistance program, offers grant money to “help cities, counties, parishes, and states recover from presidentially declared disasters, especially in low- and moderate-income areas,” according to information provided on the agency’s website. The president signed a disaster declaration for Hidalgo, Cameron and Jim Wells counties after flooding damaged thousands of homes and public infrastructure, such as roads and ditches, in June.

The median household income in the three-county region is about $35,000, according to the letter.

“This is a community of limited resources that would greatly benefit” from funding to “jumpstart a strong recovery,” Abbott wrote in the letter requesting $370,846,489.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency approved about $30.2 million in grant money to 5,084 applicants in the three counties. The agency, though, denied allocating funding to local and county governments.

This month, Congress appropriated $1.68 billion for HUD’s disaster program. Last year, HUD awarded about $4.7 billion to Texas, one of nine states receiving funding, according to a news release.

In the letter, Abbott acknowledged disasters affecting other states, but urged Carson to “not overlook the significant storm and flooding event experienced by South Texas.”

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush also requested the disbursement of grant money to aid recovery and residents affected by flooding.

“We wanted to make sure we put the Rio Grande Valley on that list of priorities,” said Brittany Eck, a spokesperson for the Texas Land Commissioner’s office.

The HUD grants may be used for infrastructure improvements to prevent homes from flooding, according to Eck.