AUSTIN — Texas General Land Office Commissioner George P. Bush has been named to head the state’s housing recovery efforts after Hurricane Harvey, officials said Thursday, as they announced they are implementing an expedited approval system for home repairs.
Gov. Greg Abbott said Bush will oversee the dispersal of $7.4 billion in Community Development Block Grant funding that will be used to fund local infrastructure repairs, along with a so-called "direct repair" program that will allow payments to homeowners to undertake their own repair work without the usual red tape.
"The goal is to quickly address local needs in each area," Abbott said, saying Bush will work with state recovery czar John Sharp and local officials to determine the funding needs in all of the Harvey-damaged areas.
Abbott said the initial funding was included in a congressional appropriation approved last week that state officials have characterized as a "down payment" on what could eventually be more than $150 billion in federal recovery funding.
The governor said he expects another appropriation later this month, followed by another in October or November and perhaps another by the end of the year.
Abbott said details of the fast-rebuild housing initiative led by the Land Office will be announced next week. But he and Federal Emergency Management Agency regional administrator Tony Robinson said the goal is to expedite recovery payments to homeowners so they can get their residences repaired faster than in the past.
Abbott said the initiative in Texas is the first time such a program has been used. He said it will address both long-term and short-term housing needs for Harvey victims.
While the Sharp-led Governor’s Commission to Rebuild Texas is focusing on infrastructure repairs in Harvey-devastated areas, the governor said Bush will be responsible for administering both the block-grant program and the state’s housing recovery efforts in coordination with FEMA.
Abbott said Bush’s focus is clear: "To be a champion to Texans whose residences have been damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Harvey and help them to feel once again at home."
In a statement, Bush said his agency is moving quickly to get the program up and running. "This effort will show once again that when Texans come together, nothing, not even the worst natural disaster in our state’s history, can stop us."