Texas state senators unanimously approved a multi-billion dollar Harvey aid package aimed at helping communities still struggling to recover after the historic storm and prepare for the next one.
The first measure, SB 6 by Sen. Kolkhorst, would direct the Texas Department of Emergency Management at DPS and other relevant agencies to develop a model guide based on best practices to help local officials respond in the aftermath of a natural disaster. This manual would include direction on applying for federal aid, cooperation with volunteer aid agencies, meeting housing needs in the short- and long-term and debris removal. Additionally, it would direct the same agencies to devise a program to train and credential emergency response coordinators and directors. Finally, it would require TDEM, in conjunction with emergency response experts at Texas A&M, the Department of Transportation and Commission on Environmental Quality, to create a best practices guide for debris removal, which proved to be a particular challenge in the wake of Harvey.
The next measure also looks ahead to plan for future flood events, not only those coastal floods caused by hurricanes, but anywhere in the state. Facilitated by the Texas Water Development Board, regional stakeholders will develop and construct the most effective projects to preserve life and protect property during flood events. The state board will ensure these regional plans don’t negatively impact neighboring regions. The framework to pay for all of this comes through Creighton’s SB 7. The Texas Infrastructure Resiliency Fund created by this measure was appropriated $1.65 billion in the supplemental budget bill approved by the Senate last week. It will pay for flood mitigation projects identified by the regional flood planning process set forth in SB 8 by offering grants and low-interest loans to local jurisdictions for development and construction. Additionally, the bill would help pay for local fund matches to draw down federal dollars both for recovery and mitigation projects.