President Trump to Visit Houston Saturday and calls for $7.9 billion Federal Assistance
Officials are starting to grapple with the costs of Harvey. Here's what you should know today.
By Shannon Najmabadi, The Texas Tribune
September 2, 2017
As the extent of the damage wrought by Hurricane Harvey becomes apparent, federal and state relief efforts are coming into focus.
The death toll for the storm has reached 50 people, the Houston Chronicle reported on Saturday, and the Texas Department of Public Safety said more than 185,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed by the storm, according to the Washington Post.
President Donald Trump is scheduled to visit Houston on Saturday, where he’s expected to meet with Harvey survivors after being criticized for not doing so while in Corpus Christi and Austin on Tuesday. Houston activists are reportedly planning to protest Trump's midday visit to a relief center, according to the Chronicle. Saturday's visit will be Mayor Sylvester Turner’s first opportunity to talk to Trump since Harvey made landfall, the Chronicle said, though the president has communicated regularly with Gov. Greg Abbott.
Trump on Friday called for $7.9 billion in federal assistance, a first installment in what’s expected to be a more expansive relief package, according to the Associated Press. Of that, $7.4 billion would go to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and $450 million to disaster loans for small businesses. The New York Times reported a second request for $6.7 billion would follow.
Abbott said Wednesday he expects the state will need far more than $120 billion, the amount of federal relief provided after Hurricane Katrina, the Post reported. And Turner told CNN Friday, “We need immediately, right now, just for debris removal alone, anywhere between $75 million to $100 million.”
In a message posted to Twitter, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan said the chamber will “act quickly” on disaster relief funding, with a vote expected to come next week when Congress returns from an August recess. Meanwhile, state lawmakers have set a committee hearing for Thursday to discuss housing needs in the wake of Harvey. Abbott has already said a second special legislative session would not be necessary, and that the state has enough resources to "address the needs between now and the next session."
Trump has said he plans to donate $1 million of his personal money to Harvey relief. He also has called for Sunday to be a national day of prayer for those impacted by the storm.
Abbott, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick all said they would commit $100,000 through their campaigns to a Harvey relief fund announced by the governor Friday. Patrick added in a message posted to Twitter that he and his wife would make a personal donation of $25,000 to the fund – which Abbott wants raise $100 million for over Labor Day weekend.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2017/09/02/floodwater-ebbs-recovery-after-harvey-just-beginning/.