H-GAC opened to public comment through July 28 its preliminary method of distribution, or MOD—a strategy for determining which local governments receive funding using objective factors and formulas—for $488 million in Community Development Block Grant mitigation funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The agency submitted the plan to the Texas General Land Office in February and received conditional approval in June.
“We've developed this method of distribution to make sure that those funds are allocated to our local governments in a way that really meets our local needs, allows them some flexibility to propose projects that will meet their local needs but most importantly to increase the resilience of our communities for storm events in the future,” H-GAC Principal Planner Justin Bower said at a July 14 virtual information session.
H-GAC allocated the funds throughout 12 of the 13 counties it serves—Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Colorado, Fort Bend, Galveston, Liberty, Matagorda, Montgomery, Waller, Walker and Wharton counties—as well as cities and ZIP codes located within each. The largest slices of funding went to Brazoria, Fort Bend and Montogomery counties; they were allocated over $43 million, $56 million and $60 million, respectively.
H-GAC’s funding allocation notably excludes Harris County and cities wholly within it such as Houston. Since the Texas GLO allocated an additional $750 million exclusively to Harris County in March, the county will develop its own MOD, H-GAC officials said.
“We’re looking forward to being part of that process and coordinating between those two methods of distribution,” Bower said.
H-GAC received feedback from many Houston residents expressing confusion as to why Harris County and Houston were not included in H-GAC’s allocations, Bower shared during the July 14 meeting. He noted that uncertainty regarding Harris County’s plans to distribute its own funding was a factor in H-GAC’s decision.
“There is a subjective aspect to that decision. Ultimately, that decision is vested with our board,” Bower said.
The Texas GLO and Harris County have been at odds over recovery funding since May 2021, when the agency announced the city of Houston and Harris County would not receive any federal Hurricane Harvey flood mitigation funding. However, following outcry from local officials, the GLO pledged $750 million to Harris County. More recently, the GLO announced July 1 that it plans to remove $52 million from the city of Houston's Hurricane Harvey disaster funds intended for recovery programs.
Despite this contention, cities located partially outside of Harris County are eligible for partial funding allocations. Harris County’s cities may be eligible for reallocated funds if they become available.
H-GAC set a minimum allocation amount of $900,000 for local jurisdictions. If H-GAC’s formula calculates that a city needs an amount under that threshold, it will not receive any funds. Rather, H-GAC would give the estimated funds to the county and recommend that the county work with the city on mutually beneficial projects.
Declined funds will be reallocated, with Harris County and its cities then eligible for them.
Providing flood assistance
HUD provides the funds as part of its Community Development Block Grant Mitigation-Regional Mitigation Program. The GLO then administers the program at the state level and sets the guidelines for how regional governments can distribute funds.
The funds are intended to provide financial assistance to counties and local jurisdictions for risk-mitigation projects related to flooding, hurricanes and other natural disasters, Bower said. Funds are not allocated for individuals or specific projects.
“While it’s only a small drop in the bucket in terms of the overall need we have as a region, it is meaningful, and it will make meaningful change for our local communities,” Bower said.
The MOD takes into account four equally weighted factors in its allocation formula: the number of households impacted by disasters historically, the extent of this damage, the amount of low- to moderate-income individuals residing in the area, and populations located within floodways and flood plains.
“There’s a strong focus on our most vulnerable communities,” Bower said.
The agency will submit its final MOD to the GLO at its board meeting Aug. 16. H-GAC region residents and stakeholders can learn more about the preliminary MOD and comment on it at a public hearing scheduled for July 21. Meeting attendees asked H-GAC officials about the distribution timeline, but officials said the plan must first wait an unknown amount of time for final GLO approval.
H-GAC will also accept verbal and written public comments regarding the preliminary MOD until July 28 at 5 p.m. Information about the meetings and the preliminary MOD can be found at www.h-gac.com/go/cdbg.