Abbott calls on Texas delegation to get a `stiff spine’ and demand more Harvey aid

 

Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a briefing about Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts at the Texas – FEMA Joint Field Office on Tuesday September 26, 2017. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Good morning Austin:

Remember when Hurricane Harvey was a disaster nonpareil, the focus of national and world attention.

But that was many disasters nonpareil ago, and now mention Harvey and for most Americans, the first thing to flash in one’s man is probably a truly evil man named Weinstein.

Yesterday, amid another long day of visiting coastal communities in Texas still slogging through what will be a long and difficult and hugely expensive recovery, Gov. Greg Abbott learned that the U.S. House today – with the apparent support of the Texas delegation – will be voting for a disaster aid package that falls far short of what he and they had wanted and demanded for Texas. On the news, the governor grew angry that a crucial moment to keep attention trained on his state’s still desperate needs might be slipping away.

From Kountze, Abbott placed a called to the Houston Chronicle’s Mike Ward.

Abbott: Texas may be about to get ‘rolled’ on Harvey aid package Governor urges state congressional delegation to get ‘a stiff spine’ and fight

Mike Ward and Kevin Diaz:

AUSTIN — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott complained Wednesday that U.S. House leaders are poised to sidetrack the state’s request for an additional $18.7 billion in Hurricane Harvey aid, and challenged the Texas congressional delegation to get a “stiff spine” and fight for the funding.

A bill scheduled for a House vote Thursday provides $36.5 billion in disaster aid for victims of hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate, and for those fighting wildfires across California and other western states.

 Although Harvey victims would be included in the aid package, it does not specifically include some $18.7 billion that Abbott and nearly the entire Texas congressional delegation had sought to earmark specifically for the victims of Hurricane Harvey in the Gulf Coast. Much of that was targeted for the Houston area.
 
“I am disappointed that most members of the Texas congressional delegation have agreed to go ahead and vote for this bill, from what I know at this time, when Texas needs this money,” Abbott said in an interview with the Chronicle. “It appears the Texas delegation will let themselves be rolled by the House of Representatives.”

Abbott said Texas’ congressional delegation should vote against the bill unless it includes additional funding for Texas specifically.

The bill includes $18.67 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) disaster relief fund – nearly $5 billion of which could be used to subsidize direct loans to Puerto Rico.

 Another $16 billion is for the National Flood Insurance Program’s (NFIP), which is nearly $30 billion in debt.
Before we proceed, it is worth noting that telling members of Congress to stiffen their spines is not a casual image for Abbott.
On July 14, 1984, Abbott was a 26-year-old law school graduate preparing for the bar exam when he was hit by a falling tree while jogging in Houston, crushing his spine and leaving him a paraplegic.
When he announced his candidacy for governor the first time, on the anniversary of that accident, he portrayed himself as both literally and metaphorically having a spine of steel.
From Sen. John Cornyn’s office, this is what the governor and the Texas delegation, in a letter last Thursday, were looking for in from Congress in Harvey relief.
U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), along with Governor Greg Abbott (R-TX), led a bipartisan, bicameral letter from the Texas congressional delegation to leaders of the Senate and House Appropriations Committees urging them to include $18.7 billion in funding for relief and recovery efforts from Hurricane Harvey in the next Supplemental Appropriations bill.

“Texas greatly appreciates the appropriations committees’ efforts to swiftly provide funds,” the Members wrote. “However, in light of the unprecedented damage from Hurricane Harvey and the historically epochal flooding of Houston, Beaumont and surrounding regions, we all recognize that the funding already appropriated is a small fraction of the federal resources needed to help rebuild Texas and reinvigorate the American economy.”

The letter was also signed by Representatives Louie Gohmert (TX-01), Ted Poe (TX-02), Sam Johnson (TX-03), John Ratcliffe (TX-04), John Culberson (TX-07), Al Green (TX-09), Michael McCaul (TX-10), Michael Conaway (TX-11), Kay Granger (TX-12), Mac Thornberry (TX-13), Randy Weber (TX-14), Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15), Beto O’Rourke (TX-16), Bill Flores (TX-17), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Jodey Arrington (TX-19), Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Lamar Smith (TX-21), Pete Olson (TX-22), Will Hurd (TX-23), Kenny Marchant (TX-24), Roger Williams (TX-25), Michael Burgess (TX-26), Blake Farenthold (TX-27), Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Gene Green (TX-29), Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30), John Carter (TX-31), Pete Sessions (TX-32), Marc Veasey (TX-33), Filemon Vela (TX-34), Lloyd Doggett (TX-35), and Brian Babin (TX-36).Committee

Full text of the letter is below and can be downloaded here.

Dear Chairman Cochran, Vice Chairman Leahy, Chairman Frelinghuysen, and Ranking Member Lowey:

On Friday, August 25, 2017, Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the southeast coast of Texas and decimated a number of coastal communities. For nearly a week, this storm battered our state with extreme winds, torrential rains, and record-setting floods, causing catastrophic damage to Texas’ residents and businesses.

In response to this catastrophic event (DR-4332) and following a direct request for supplemental funding from the Administration, Congress acted swiftly, passing legislation to appropriate $15.25 billion in emergency aid. This amount included $7.4 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) within the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), $450 million for the Disaster Loan Program within the Small Business Administration (SBA), and $7.4 billion for the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) Program. Texas greatly appreciates the appropriations committees’ efforts to swiftly provide funds. However, in light of the unprecedented damage from Hurricane Harvey and the historically epochal flooding of Houston, Beaumont and surrounding regions, we all recognize that the funding already appropriated is a small fraction of the federal resources needed to help rebuild Texas and reinvigorate the American economy.

It is our understanding that the Administration, through the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), has made an additional supplemental appropriation request to Congress. When considering this request, we ask that the Senate and House committees on appropriations strongly consider a number of additional funding categories, in addition to the FEMA DRF, to help expedite recovery efforts in Texas:

·         U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is charged with building and maintaining the nation’s hurricane and storm damage reduction infrastructure, and is critical to recovery efforts after major disasters.  As such, we believe it is necessary to adequately fund the USACE efforts to keep the nation’s rivers and ports dredged, and to protect our coasts and cities from flooding.  Given the devastation from Hurricane Harvey and the historically unprecedented amount of rainfall that recently fell on the State of Texas, we strongly recommend additional USACE funds be included in the next supplemental appropriations bill.  The purpose of these funds would be to rehabilitate and repair damages to completed USACE projects and those under construction, to implement authorized projects ready for construction, to dredge Federal navigation channels, and for emergency response and recovery operations, repairs, and other activities. The swifter these projects are funded, the sooner we will reduce future loss of life and economic exposure from subsequent storms. Further, protecting critical infrastructure and returning to normal operations is a matter of economic and national security, with Harvey already causing a $20 billion economic impact from damage to Texas ports.
REQUEST: $10 billion

·         Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR): H.R. 601 appropriated $7.4 billion for this program, to remain available until expended, for all major disasters declared in 2017. Early estimates from the State of Texas indicate a total need of over $40 billion in CDBG-DR funds. Given the projected unmet needs of our State, and the impact of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, we strongly urge an additional down payment of CDBG-DR funds in the next emergency supplemental.

REQUEST: $7 billion

·         State Educational Agencies: Texas educational institutions at all levels have reported widespread damages to schools and infrastructure as a result of Hurricane Harvey. In the past, emergency supplemental packages have included funding for Local Educational Agencies (LEA), schools and institutions of higher education that were affected by natural disasters. In order to ensure that the education system endures minimal interruption, we request that the appropriations committees consider an allocation that will provide emergency assistance to educational institutions with unexpected expenses as a result of Hurricane Harvey.

REQUEST: $800 million

·         SBA Disaster Loans Program: In the wake of a major disaster, the SBA provides low-interest disaster loans to businesses, private non-profit organizations, homeowners and renters. SBA loans are often the first form of federal assistance available for individuals and business for disaster recovery. Any additional emergency supplemental should appropriate additional resources for the Disaster Loans Program account.
REQUEST: $450 million

·         Economic Development Administration: The Economic Development Administration (EDA), through the Department of Commerce, plays a crucial role in facilitating the delivery of economic assistance to local governments for long-term recovery planning, reconstruction and resiliency in response to presidentially declared disasters or emergencies. EDA grants, awarded through a competitive application process, emphasize disaster resiliency to help mitigate the potential for economic hardship as a result of future weather events.
REQUEST: $300 million

·         Transportation Infrastructure: In order to address long-term recovery needs, it is vital that our State’s highways and transit systems are quickly restored and serviceable to ensure the movement of emergency supplies throughout the State. Authorized under 23 U.S.C. 125 and 49 U.S.C. 5324, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Emergency Relief Program and the Public Transportation Emergency Relief Program, respectively, are crucial programs that can provide Texas with immediate resources for transportation infrastructure repairs.

REQUEST: $150 million

Thank you for your consideration of these funding needs and for your efforts to ensure that our State has adequate resources to recover and rebuild.

This was the governor’s itinerary yesterday, from his office.

Governor Abbott Meets With Local Officials In Hurricane Affected Cities

AUSTIN – Governor Greg Abbott today visited five Harvey-affected cities in Southeast Texas. This trip was the third of a three-day, 16-city tour of Hurricane impacted areas of Texas. Also joining the Governor on his visits today was Commission to Rebuild Texas Commissioner John Sharp. While traveling to these communities, Governor Abbott spoke with Mayors, Legislators, County Judges, and other officials to ensure they are getting all the help they need in the recovery effort and reaffirmed the state’s commitment to helping Texans in these areas.

“Seeing these devastated areas first hand and speaking with local officials, the impact of Harvey seems overwhelming, but the Texas spirit remains alive and well,” said Governor Abbott. “I want to assure every single Texan in these communities that we will see the recovery process through to the end, and these visits have resulted in better coordination between state and local officials. I thank all local leaders for their hard work and commitment to help their citizens recover and rebuild.”

Today the Governor visited Port Arthur, Mont Belvieu, Dayton, Kountze, and Orange. The Governor has traveled to a total of 16 Harvey affected in the past 3 days.

Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a news conference at the Capitol on Monday September 18, 2017. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

And here is some of the coverage of the governor’s day on the coast.

KJAC-TV (NBC-Beaumont) Governor Abbott Meets With Local Officials In Hurricane Affected Cities

ANCHOR: Governor — visiting five cities affected by Harvey… to meet with local officials and discuss the ongoing recovery efforts Port Arthur mayor, Derrick Freeman tells 12 News: they received a check from the Governor last week… that is about 40 percent of what the city estimates… the debris pick up is going to cost. according to the mayor, the cost for all of the debris to be removed from Port Arthur is estimated to be around 26 million dollars.

MAYOR DERRICK FREEMAN: amazing feeling to have the Governor the way we have. the past few weeks. it’s just an amazing feeling to know he is looking out for Port Arthur. a week ago he sent a ten million dollar check that really helped us out in a time of need.”

ANCHOR: the Governor tells 12 News: a second wave of Harvey relief funding… will be voted on by Congress… sometime later this month.

KBMT-TV: (ABC-Beaumont) Governor Abbott Visits Hurricane Affected Cities In Southeast Texas

ANCHOR: Governor Greg Abbott back in Southeast Texas for a third time to get an update on Harvey recovery efforts. Abbott’s first stop was Port Arthur before heading to orange county and Kountze. Port Arthur Mayor Derrick Freeman tells 12 news the city received a check to help with debris removal. according to the mayor, the cost for all of the debris to be removed from Port Arthur is estimated around 26 million dollars.

MAYOR DERRICK FREEMAN: amazing feeling to have the Governor the way we have. the past few weeks. it’s just an amazing feeling to know he is looking out for Port Arthur. a week ago he sent a ten million dollar check that really helped us out in a time of need.

ANCHOR: go wave of Harvey relief funding will be voted on by congress later this month.

KFDM-TV: (CBS-Beaumont) Governor Abbott Visits Hurricane Affected Cities To Meet With Local Officials

ANCHOR: Governor Abbott meeting with local officials in Port Arthur today talking about recovery. it’s the third of three days of him Southeast Texas and Abbott says it’ll be important to rebuild in a way to with stand storms in the future. he says president trump and the texas delegation, together, requested nearly $40 billion in additional funding. he understands folks are frustrated but he stressed recovery takes time.

GOVERNOR ABBOTT: I’m impressed with both the leadership in the local community as well as the progress being made. we understand that there are still many homeowners and business that is are still suffering that still need improvements. we know the need for the ongoing removal of debris. that said, tremendous progress is being made. we’re here today to further aid both the county as well as the cities as well as the citizens to make sure they’re going to have all the resources they need to fully rebuild.

Gov. Greg Abbott visits SETX after Hurricane Harvey

KBMT-TV:

Texas Governor, Greg Abbott paid a visit to Port Arthur, Kountze and Orange today to speak to local officials about the latest on the Harvey recovery process. The discussions at Port Arthur city hall extended for nearly an hour.
 
“Just an amazing feeling to know he is looking out for the city of Port Arthur,” said Derrick Freeman, Major of Port Arthur.
 
Mayor Freeman says that Port Arthur received 10 million dollars from the state last week, but only about 20 percent of the debris has been removed so far.
 
“We have already picked up 20 percent of it but Abbott gave us 40 percent of the upfront money,” said Freeman.
 
Freeman believes the full removal cost in the city will approach 26 million dollars. Last Thursday, Texas lawmakers requested more federal funds to help with Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts.
 
“That is for the second round of relief funding that will provide billions of dollars,” Greg Abbott, Governor of Texas.
 
“This is not going to go away, this is a five-year recovery, but through my leadership I hope to get things going,” said Freeman.
 
Abbott says that the U.S. Congress could vote on the 19 billion dollar Harvey relief funding by the latter part of the month.
For some the apocalyptic run of recent disasters is a sign of the end times –  humankind reaping what it has sown.
For others, it s a sign of climate change – humankind reaping what it has sown.
From Climate Liability News:

By Bobby Magill

As wildfires continued to rip through Northern California’s wine country Wednesday and the death toll continued to rise, images of the blazes’ devastation capped one of the most extraordinary years of climate disasters that North America has ever seen.

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria flattened numerous Caribbean islands, submerged Houston, broke rainfall and tropical cyclone intensity records and has left an estimated 94 percent of Puerto Rico without power nearly three weeks after Maria’s landing. It has left the world wondering if the devastation witnessed in 2017 will become more frequent as humans’ greenhouse gas emissions continue to warm the globe.

Tallying up the lost life and property and the toll of the human suffering from the unprecedented 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, the devastating Western wildfire season and the year’s long list of other disasters is dizzying, illustrating the personal and economic effects of climate change.

xxxx

Here’s a look at the crazy numbers of 2017’s climate-related disasters:

$300 billion—A preliminary estimate of the total damages caused by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria — double the cumulative cost of all the decade’s previous hurricanes, according to the Universal Ecological Fund. Official U.S. government estimates of losses from the three hurricanes are still being assessed, and are expected to be released by the end of the year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  

$36.5 billion—Amount of disaster relief in the package proposed by House Republicans on Tuesday to help recovery and rebuilding from the year’s hurricanes, floods and wildfires.

$5 billion—Puerto Rico relief designated in that package as a loan that the territory must pay back, despite its already staggering debt and the continuing devastation.

$567.5 million—Amount of that package earmarked for the U.S. Forest Service to combat wildfires.

At least 20The death toll of the Northern California wildfires in Napa and Sonoma counties as of late Wednesday. More than 240 people remain missing after hurricane-force winds blew the blazes across wine country, destroying more than 2,000 buildings and scorching over 122,000 acres.

8,502,805 acres—The total number of acres burned by wildfire in the U.S. in 2017 through Oct. 10, making the year’s wildfire season the second-worst of the decade in terms of land area burned. More land — about 8.8 million acres — burned in 2012 than any other year this decade. Over the previous decade, 2006-2016, an average of 6 million acres burned annually, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

$5.1 billion—Total losses from U.S. wildfires in the decade leading up to the 2017 wildfire season, according to Verisk Insurance Solutions. The firm also estimates that 4.5 million homes in the U.S. are it high or extreme risk of wildfire.

$2 billion—NOAA’s estimate of the losses from all of the West’s wildfires burning during July and August. The year’s devastating wildfires were fueled by extreme drought in the Pacific Northwest.

$2.5 billion—NOAA’s estimate of the losses from the North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana drought, which devastated agriculture and fed wildfires between March and September.

15—Number of weather and climate events with at least $1 billion in damages so far in 2017, according to NOAA.

6.9 million people—The number of people living in an area around Houston that received or 30 or more inches of rainfall, submerging much of the city beneath floodwaters high enough to submerge traffic lights.

2.7 to 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit—Degrees above normal the water of the Gulf of Mexico registered as Hurricane Harvey approached Houston, fueling the amount of water the storm could hold. The stretch of the Atlantic Ocean that Irma traveled over was up to 2 degrees warmer, according to the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

60.58 inches—Total rainfall from Hurricane Harvey recorded in Nederland, Texas. National Weather Service meteorologist Nikki Hathaway said that rainfall amounts are still being verified, and the agency is still determining whether that rainfall total represents a precipitation record for the continental U.S. A previously reported Harvey rainfall total of 51.88 inches in Cedar Bayou, Texas, was found to be incorrect.

70 percent—Amount of damage from Harvey estimated to be covered by no form of insurance.

37 Hours—Total time Hurricane Irma maintained an intensity of 165 knots or greater, with winds reaching 185 mph or greater, possibly breaking a global record for duration of tropical cyclone intensity. Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist who forecasts hurricanes at Colorado State University, said his research of global cyclone data found that only Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the Philippines in 2013, came close to being so intense for so long. Haiyan maintained 165-knot or greater intensity for 24 hours.

50—Days remaining in Atlantic hurricane season.

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