In the weeks following Hurricane Harvey's devastating strike on the Texas coast, local and state leaders wasted little time in coming up with a price tag for getting hard-hit communities back on their feet. Texas Governor Greg Abbott flew to Washington in October to push his 301-page proposal for $61 billion in funding for infrastructure repairs and upgrades. But an $81 billion aid package passed by the House before the Christmas break has stalled in the Senate, reported The Hill (see: "Disaster aid becomes hostage to funding fight," by Melanie Zanona and Jordain Carney).
This week, hurricane aid dropped off the radar entirely as House and Senate leaders struggled to keep the federal government open at all. The Houston Chronicle had this report on the eve of the shut-down (see: "GOP plan to avert shutdown leaves out Harvey aid," by Kevin Diaz. "Frustrations are rising among officials in Houston and Austin over the inaction," the Chronicle reported. "As Texas officials feared, an $81 billion storm relief bill passed by the House in December continues to languish amid congressional brinkmanship over a wider budget agreement, with Republicans insisting on funding President Donald Trump's border wall and Democrats holding out for a deal to protect young immigrants from deportation."
"So far, Congress has approved two relief packages worth about $52 billion, with funds going to federal programs to be spread across states and areas impacted by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, as well as wildfires in Western states," reported the Dallas News (see: "Harvey disaster aid takes backseat as lawmakers grapple with DACA, shutdown threat," by Katie Leslie). But Texas officials say the money falls fall short of the need. Reported the Dallas News: “Gov. Abbott believes it is extremely disappointing that much needed disaster aid for Texas is getting bogged down in Washington D.C.,” spokeswoman Ciara Matthews said this week. “He has received assurance after assurance. Yet every day that goes by without funding is another day that Texans who have been upended by Hurricane Harvey go without the resources needed to rebuild their lives."
For one Texas family, recovery means getting to move back inside the house, reported Houston TV station KHOU (see: "Family in tent now living inside, kitchen still on front porch," by Janelle Bludau). “Now I feel like this is my house, before I used to see only wood. Now I can see my walls you know but we’re getting there, and we will, we will get up," resident Petra Cervantes told KHOU. "But not everything has been put back in its place," the station reports: "The pantry, stove, even the microwave are still outside on the porch." On Tuesday, Cervantes braved 20-degree temperatures to make gorditas and chicken soup, saying: “If you like to cook, if you like to live, you can make it, you can do it. Even if you don’t have no money, no nothing, but you always find a way how to do it. That’s the way I am."
Governor Abbott on Wednesday renewed the state disaster declaration for 60 counties affected by Harvey, reported the Houston Chronicle (see: "Gov. Abbott extends Harvey disaster aid declaration," by Mike Ward. "State disaster declarations must be renewed every 30 days for assistance to remain available," noted the Chronicle. Said Abbott in a statement: "While it has been months since Harvey hit Texas, the catastrophic damage left by the storm continues to affect communities across the state. As long as Texas families are fighting to recover, they can rest assured that the State of Texas is fighting with them."
The United States Senate, meanwhile, was talking about ways to keep the government open, not for a month, but even just for a few days to allow work on a compromise, according to The Hill (see: "Senators float days-long funding bill," by Jordain Carney). "A group of senators is floating a days-long government funding bill as a longer House plan faces growing pushback in the Senate," The Hill reported. 'I just want to make sure that people ... who want to make sure we don't have a shutdown and people who want to resolve differences know that there is an option to doing something different than a month-long [continuing resolution],' Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) told reporters on Thursday. Moran suggested that senators could pass stopgap bills that last only one or two days."