The Latest: Disaster help OK’d for Harvey-hit cities
HOUSTON (AP) — The Latest on the aftermath of Harvey (all times local):
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has granted Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s request for Community Disaster Loan assistance for parts of the state hard-hit by Harvey.
Abbott revealed the grant approval in a Monday message posted to his Twitter page.
Texas cities struggling to recover from the storm can obtain loans to help keep their operating budgets intact and full operations functioning while the cities focus on reconstruction.
A woman who received a home through Habitat for Humanity spent Labor Day tearing out plasterboard from the Harvey-drenched home she just helped build.
Forty-three-year-old Shantera Robinson bought her first house through Habitat for Humanity, which offers affordable mortgages for people who assist in construction and take money management classes. She moved in to an all-Habitat house subdivision in Houston in March. She furnished it with appliances and furniture that she saved up to buy.
But one thing she didn’t get: flood insurance. She was told she wouldn’t need it because the subdivision is not in a flood plain. So she wasn’t expecting the 3 feet (90 centimeters) of water that rushed in during the storm.
Now her wooden furniture feels slimy, and she said mold is starting to grow. She said she hopes she can get financial help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but she’s not sure she’ll qualify.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency says it has about 560,000 families registered for its housing assistance program.
That comes from John Long, deputy federal coordinating officer of the agency.
FEMA spokeswoman Tiana Suber says if those people’s homes are found to be uninhabitable or inaccessible for an extended time, they may qualify for the agency’s Transitional Shelter Assistance. Some will qualify for short-term hotel lodging at FEMA expense, while others will be referred to local agencies or voluntary organizations for possible assistance.
Long said the main focus is to move people from the large shelters, where stress levels can run high. He says FEMA is tracking the families being moved from the large shelters as best as it can, but people will move in and out of those shelters.
He says FEMA’s mission is changing from life-saving to life sustaining.
Officials now blame at least 60 deaths on Harvey after the storm dumped many feet of rain on several counties in a matter of days.
Many of those deaths were people drowning in flash floods or water-logged roads. But county emergency management departments across southeast Texas tell The Associated Press they are including people in their storm-related death totals who died from indirect complications of Harvey.
The huge dump of water loosened the ground around trees that have fallen into at least two homes in Montgomery County and on a car in Jasper County, accounting for some of the deaths. Power outages have knocked out electricity to medical equipment that several elderly people needed to survive. And officials say floodwaters have caused delays in responses to medical emergencies that resulted in deaths.
Some residents hoping to get back to their usual routines in Harvey-ravaged Beaumont in southeast Texas are having trouble finding staples.
Since the storm, grocery stores have at times limited the number of shoppers allowed inside, and basics such as eggs, bread and bottled water have been scarce.
Brent Lafarge said he and his fiance went to a Family Dollar store but didn’t find much. Lafarge said the store had no milk and only a few loaves of bread.
A Beaumont Walmart was low on baby wipes, frozen pizza and beer. Extra workers had been brought in to stock shelves, but they couldn’t keep up.
Officials in Beaumont have struggled to repair the city’s water treatment plant that failed after the swollen Neches River inundated the main intake system and backup pumps failed.
Walmart has reopened nearly all its stores in the Gulf region that were affected by Harvey.
The retailer said Monday that only five Walmart stores in the area where the storm made landfall remain closed.
Walmart Stores says it has shipped 1,219 truckloads to stores in Texas and Louisiana, including 961 truckloads of water. It is accelerating deliveries of essentials including bread, milk, dairy products and cleaning supplies, and it’s making pharmacy services available at several shelters.
The Bentonville, Arkansas-based company and the Walmart foundation have committed up to $20 million in relief efforts.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency says 53,630 Texas residents displaced by Harvey are currently staying in government-funded hotel rooms.
FEMA spokesman Bob Howard the temporary housing has been provided for 18,732 households. Once people are granted the assistance there is a minimum allotment of 14 days, but that can be extended on a case-by-case basis.
FEMA is currently using vacant hotel rooms to provide temporary housing, but officials also are weighing other options such as mobile homes should the need arise.
Under another FEMA program, displaced residents who are able to find their own apartment can receive two months of paid rent upfront and can qualify for more as needed.
Howard says that under the disaster declaration President Donald Trump signed, the federal government contributes 90 percent of the relocation costs while Texas provides the other 10 percent.
A FEMA spokesman says the agency has provided around 17,500 hotel rooms currently being occupied by victims of Harvey.
Leo Skinner said Monday that the rooms are spread across Texas and the occupants include victims from across the Gulf Coast, which was devastated by the storm.
FEMA has created an emergency response center in part of the George R. Brown Convention Center, the downtown Houston building that housed around 10,000 evacuees at its peak, but is down to around 1,500 people.
A line of people waited to speak with FEMA representatives for assistance that could include up to 30 days’ hotel stay and two months of help with rent in temporary housing.
But some people who have registered with the agency say they were offered hotel rooms as far away as San Antonio, a three-hour drive west. They’ve elected to remain in the convention center or find another place to stay for the time being.
The Red Cross says that its officials counted 1,400 people Sunday night at the George R. Brown Convention Center, which has been turned into a shelter for evacuees from Harvey. That’s down substantially from over 10,000 a few days after the storm struck.
At a second mass shelter opened after Harvey, the NRG convention center, there were 2,800 people as of Monday morning. NRG was opened last week to take some of the overflow from George R. Brown.
Many people have left shelters after they received transitional assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for temporary housing.
Neighbors of a Houston-area chemical plant are being allowed to return home, ending an evacuation order after Harvey drenched highly combustible compounds that later exploded and caught fire.
Authorities said Monday it is now safe for residents of Crosby, Texas, to re-enter the 1.5-mile (2.4 kilometer) evacuation zone around the Arkema plant. They were forced to leave Tuesday.
Fire officials conducted a controlled burn at the plant Sunday to neutralize the remaining trailers filled with organic peroxides, which are used in plastics and paints. Three trailers had already caught fire after floodwaters consumed backup generators powering refrigeration necessary to keep the chemicals from degrading and catching fire.
Arkema says it has opened a center at Crosby High School on Monday to help residents find temporary housing and provide information on filing claims. The center is open until 5 p.m.
Houston’s mayor insists that America’s fourth-largest city is “open for business,” but major disasters that Harvey created are by no means resolved.
Areas are still under water, people are not yet in their homes, and the storm caused billions in damage to repair.
Mayor Sylvester Turner says much of the city is hoping to get back on track after Labor Day, and the city can function and recover at the same time.
One worry, of further explosions at a damaged chemical plant, lessened after officials carried out a controlled burn Sunday evening of highly unstable compounds at the Arkema plant in Crosby. Three trailers had previously caught fire after Harvey’s floodwaters knocked out generators.
Other issues across the region: too much water still in houses, no water to drink.
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