As we near the one-month anniversary of Hurricane Harvey, the shock of the storm and all it inflicted has mostly worn off, only to be replaced by despair and frustration.
Bureaucracy and red tape are the new normal for people whose lives have been disrupted and are wondering just how much time and debt it will take to get it all back together.
Some lives were complicated before the storm and federal and state governments can’t solve all those problems. But there’s one thing they could do — move a lot faster in making decisions about transitional housing programs.
Just days after the storm, locals were encouraged when state and federal government officials already were talking about a program called Sheltering and Temporary Essential Power used after Superstorm Sandy.
The STEP program gives contractors a set amount of money to make basic repairs, such as on plumbing and electricity, at homes damaged during natural disasters. But as of this writing, nothing had happened.
All we know is the state is near inking a deal with the Federal Emergency Management Agency over a housing program that allows contractors to make damaged homes livable in a shorter time, a Texas General Land Office spokeswoman said this week.
The land office, which manages federal money for housing programs, has been working with the agency to develop specific guidelines for different longer-term housing options, spokeswoman Brittany Eck said.
The land office on Thursday would not release details about the housing programs planned for Hurricane Harvey relief because the agreement isn’t signed yet, Eck said. The agreement likely would be finalized within the week, she said.
“Once we get that finalized we’ll be able to announce the programs,” Eck said. “How we want it to work is to be locally led, state supported and federally funded.”
“I think they want to call it PREP, but it’s essentially the same program,” County Judge Mark Henry said. “They may get the limit increased and widen the scope of work that qualifies.”
PREP. STEP. It doesn’t matter. We sure hope that, as Henry suggested, the delays are about making a better program for Hurricane Harvey victims. Because no one has time for semantics.
The state of Louisiana offered the STEP program after flooding in August 2016. In that program, contractors received no more than $15,000 for each home repaired, according to the program’s website, Shelter at Home. Texas officials were trying to increase the payout rate, Henry said.
All storms are different. But government relief programs have a reliable way of getting bogged down. They don’t have to. Let’s name the transitional housing program and get on with recovery.
• Laura Elder