Hidalgo County will soon see more than $58 million in federal disaster recovery funds appropriated by Congress in response to the June 2018 and June 2019 floods. Even more funding will be heading to Cameron County and half a dozen more that also suffered disasters those years.
Sen. John Cornyn announced the funding allocation in a news release Tuesday. “Texans have endured relentless storms in the past two years and many are still recovering from the resulting damage,” Cornyn said in the statement.
The funds are part of some $285.6 million in Community Development Block Grants that will be released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
It’s a win for local leaders, who have long lobbied federal lawmakers for help after twin floods devastated the region in consecutive years, and who — at the time of the June 2018 flood, had still been struggling to secure disaster relief funding from another flood three years prior, in 2015.
Hidalgo County Precinct 1 Commissioner David Fuentes called Tuesday’s announcement “good news” — specifically because so much of the disaster relief monies are slated to go to Hidalgo County alone. “The fact that they specifically designated it to our county, there’s not an unknown component as to are we sharing this with somebody? This is specifically identified for us in Hidalgo County,” Fuentes said via phone Tuesday afternoon.
“This goes back to the efforts that we’ve been putting forward since the 2018 (flood) and the lack of public assistance that was given to us by FEMA,” he continued.
The grant allocations also include $170 million for Hidalgo, Cameron, Harris, Jefferson, Liberty, Montgomery and Orange counties for disasters they suffered in 2019.
Though Fuentes was ecstatic to hear the news, calling it “fantastic,” he reflected on the sobering reasons why the funding was necessary in the first place. “There’s a lot of unfortunate events that happened for us to get to this point. People lost a lot of their personal possessions,” he said. “But, as far as the future and what we have to look forward to … to try to prevent that from ever happening again, that is great, great news.”
It’ll take some time before the funds actually make their way down to the Rio Grande Valley. Officials are still in the midst of allocating 2015 disaster recovery funds, but will likely use the rules outlined for those funds to help in the rulemaking processes for this latest funding announcement, Fuentes said.
The commissioner said he hoped the monies, which are intended to be used for flood mitigation, will be disbursed within the next 12-18 months. They’ll be used to bankroll additional drainage projects, he said.
“That means more drainage projects and more projects we can put into the ground,” Fuentes said. “And this isn’t gonna come at any cost for the taxpayers as far as new taxes, or any new monies that we have to pay back.”