FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 21, 2020
Houston, TX – The Texas Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Texas General Land Office (GLO), staying a Third Court of Appeals decision, TRO, to stop GLO from initiating the process to take back Harvey recovery funds from the City of Houston and blocked GLO from accepting any new applicants. This is supported with an Amicus Brief (https://bit.ly/3iOtHRp) filed by Senator Paul Bettencourt, along with Senators Kolkhorst, Creighton, Taylor, and Huffman, as well as Representatives Bohac, Harless, Huberty, Cain, Davis, Murphy, Paul, Oliverson, and Swanson in support of GLO which argued that the Third Court of Appeals order could jeopardize federal funding and runs counter to HB 2776 sponsored by Sen. Creighton from the 85th Session.
"Houstonians have spent the last three hurricane seasons waiting for the City of Houston to provide disaster recovery assistance and with two storms in the Gulf next week, this is a poignant point," said Senator Bettencourt. "The Senate Finance Committee heard testimony on the city and county mismanagement as far back as 2019, and that is why the GLO has taken the action that they have. Commissioner Bush has advised me that they have 1,000 applications that they can begin to work on in the City of Houston, and this clears the way," he added.
Court testimony highlighted that only 245 Houston families had received assistance in the City's homebuyer assistance and homeowner’s assistance programs, with only 65 homes built in the last two years. This is compared to the General Land Office building 1,618 homes for Texas families through the state-run Homeowner Assistance Program. Updated numbers provided by the GLO show that the City of Houston has only completed 76 homes, while the GLO has rebuilt 1,798 homes (more than 23 times that of the City of Houston) and approved 2,844 reimbursements, totaling $82,722,833.
At the time of our amicus brief, Representative Harless said “The City should stop wasting taxpayer’s money and let the GLO finish the job,” Representative Swanson added, “The City of Houston continues to demonstrate a remarkable talent for mismanaging and wasting taxpayer dollars. Their incompetence now puts Houston at risk of losing vital disaster recovery assistance, which if not spent, will be returned to the federal government. The General Land Office should and must regain administrative authority to see these funds disbursed before it is too late.”
“This is about helping Houstonians rebuild their homes the quickest way possible,” said Senator Bettencourt. "I'm glad Houstonians won't spend another hurricane season waiting for this case to wade through the legal system and get relief from that flooding."
As noted in the brief, if the disaster recovery funds allocated by Congress have not been spent by August 17, 2024 the State of Texas would lose access to those funds. Without federal funds, the burden of closing this shortfall would fall on the State of Texas to allocate money to assist with disaster recovery due to the City of Houston's inability to adequately manage the program and fulfill their fiduciary obligations to their residents.