Despite Hurricane Harvey making landfall in 2017, millions of Texans were impacted and some still have not fully recovered from its unprecedented flooding. This is especially frustrating, as it has recently come to light that millions in distributed federal aid went to communities that were far less impacted by Hurricane Harvey’s wrath.

Federal Hurricane Harvey Aid Went to Inland Communities

After $1 billion in federal aid was designated for the Houston area communities impacted by Hurricane Harvey in 2017, many residents finally began feeling relief. However, following an investigation by the Houston Chronicle, it was determined that this disaster recovery aid was distributed disproportionally to inland communities that suffered considerably less damage than other areas. Much of the money was also steered toward counties with a lower risk of natural disaster or hurricane activity while the vulnerable coastal counties were given little to no aid at all.

For example, Iola, Texas in Grimes County sits 100 miles from the coast. The town needed an $11 million wastewater system that would benefit roughly 379 people out of its entire population of 428 residents. While Iola got the funding it needed for the wastewater system, larger more affected areas got nothing.

Port Arthur, for instance, sits directly on the Gulf of Mexico and requested $97 million to rectify street damage affecting over 42,000 residents. Despite the need and denser population, Port Arthur received no funding.

These findings come nearly one month after it was reported that Houston’s Harris County, which bore the brunt of Harvey’s impact, would receive $0 in disaster relief from the first round of Hurricane Harvey federal funding.

Smaller cities within Harris County, including Baytown, Galena Park, Jacinto City, and Pasadena, were awarded over $90 million in combined funds for Harvey-related projects. However, none of Houston’s proposals were granted. This finding shocked city officials who anticipated millions in federal dollars to fund local recovery efforts.

Now, with the latest round of Hurricane Harvey relief paid to inland communities like Iola, the frustrations are amplified. This is especially true for areas like Port Arthur, who remained underwater throughout Hurricane Harvey. Furthermore, several subsequent storms, including Tropical Storm Imelda, also flooded homes in the area. Much of this is due to the city’s drainage system being nearly 100 years old with some existing pipes being made out of clay.

In the state’s calculations that determined the awarding of federal relief aid, Iola’s application scored higher than Port Arthur’s. Iola tallied 69 out of 105 total points, while Port Arthur received 65. The determination encompassed nine scoring criteria, including evaluating how many low and moderate-income residents a project would serve and how expensive that project would be per person.

Coastal county leaders believe the distribution of the aid was unfair, as it put far less damaged inland communities on equal ground with decimated coastal and coastal adjacent communities in the running to obtain funding. Initially, the federal government designated just 20 counties in Texas to be eligible to receive the aid; however, the state added 29 mostly inland counties to the list.

Hurricane Harvey Continues to Impact Texas

Hurricane Harvey made a lasting impact on Houston and its surrounding areas. The storm sparked extreme flooding and caused roughly $125 billion in damage, making it the most expensive disaster in the U.S. for 2017. More than 200,000 homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed by the storm.

Despite being nearly four years since Harvey, many Texas communities are still impacted by the storm. Stalls in funding have left several watersheds in Harris County at a standstill, while many flood-prone areas like Port Arthur have outdated drainage systems that are now nearly unusable.

With this in mind, Houston residents, including commercial property owners, need to ensure they have adequate insurance coverage during this year’s hurricane season. After Harvey’s devastating impact, many business owners found they had little to no coverage for flood damage. Many of the businesses directly and indirectly affected by Harvey were not located in a designated flood plain at the time of the storm, meaning flood insurance was not required.

Many commercial property policies exclude coverage for losses caused by rising water. In certain instances where businesses sustain water damage from a hurricane, some insurers will attempt to deny claims entirely by citing flood exclusions. To ensure a commercial property is adequately covered in the event of a hurricane, business owners should consult with an experienced insurance coverage attorney.

Houston Hurricane Insurance Claims Attorneys

Hurricane Harvey made a major impact on the Houston area that is still being felt today. At Raizner Law, we’ve represented thousands of clients in claims against most major insurance companies for commercial losses due to Harvey and other major hurricanes. Contact our office today to see how we can assist you.

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