Trump signs off on nearly $90 billion of disaster funding that will help Harvey victims

Sami Sparber

For Texans affected by Hurricane Harvey, more substantial federal disaster funding is helpful, but long overdue.

On Feb. 9, President Donald Trump signed into law a budget bill allocating $89.3 billion in disaster aid to states affected by last year’s hurricanes and wildfires. 

Just prior to being passed, 12 Texans in the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to U.S. Senate leaders, urging them to vote quickly on the bill, which had languished on the Senate floor for over a month.

“We have constituents who after almost six months, remain in transitional housing and homes that lack weatherization as Texas remains in the grip of an unusually cold winter,” reads the letter, which was sent Feb. 1. “It is past time for Congress to act.”

In a press release, Gov. Greg Abbott expressed his gratitude for the Texas delegation and leaders in Congress for delivering on a “crucial step forward” in the post–Harvey recovery process.

“The much–needed funding included in the bill for flood mitigation projects, housing and infrastructure repairs will provide a meaningful benefit to Texas,” Abbott said. “While Texans will continue to struggle in Harvey’s wake long after today’s vote, our resilient spirit remains strong, and we will continue working at the federal, state and local levels to ensure we emerge from this disaster stronger than ever.”

Advertising senior Hana Mostajeran said her house was completely flooded during the storm and her family is still in the process of rebuilding it. While she is glad the bill was passed, Mostajeran said it will not fix the problems of individual homeowners.    

“The bill allocates the money to Texas as well as other places that were affected by natural disasters last year, so while $90 billion sounds like a lot, it’s really not that much when you split it up,” Mostajeran said. “Most of the money Texas will receive will go towards repairing infrastructure. While there’s nothing negative about the bill, it’s pretty much irrelevant for helping individuals.”

Although biochemistry junior Leo Angulo’s home in Katy, Texas, did not sustain major damage, he said the aid is “too little, too late” for those who lost their homes.

Angulo said some of his friends and family are still struggling to get back on their feet. For them, he said, the wait for federal assistance has been taxing.

“(They) are frustrated with how long this whole thing took,” Angulo said. “A lot of people felt stranded, both literally and financially, by the federal government. When something like Hurricane Harvey happens, you count on the government to back you up, and when they don’t it becomes a waiting game that no one likes to play.”

It is not yet clear how much of the money will go to Texas. However, Texas Senator John Cornyn said the extra $8 billion of aid which the Senate added to the original bill was intended to help Texas specifically.

“This was designed with Texas in mind,” Cornyn said to reporters last week. “While Texans have begun the rebuilding process in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, our state is still in need of resources as we recover from the most extreme rain event in our nation’s history.”