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San Jacinto News-Times - Local News
Stories Added - April 2010
Copyright 2010 - Polk County Publishing Company

DETCOG considering legal action for hurricane disaster relief funds
San Jacinto News- Times

COLDSPRING -- Representatives gathered from Deep East Texas Council of Government’s (DETCOG) 12-county region Thursday in San Jacinto County to discuss disaster recovery efforts and prospects of taking legal action towards obtaining future money promised the region for hurricane disaster relief. Last month DETCOG was told the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) had recommended a plan that would drop DETCOG’s second round of disaster recovery funding from $208 million to $96.5 million. DETCOG Executive Director Walter Diggles said the Federal Emergency Management Association’s (FEMA) recent proposal to send more money to Houston/Galveston and Orange and less money to Deep East Texas and the Valley caused concern. Now, HUD offi cials are requesting an additional $30 million be taken from DETCOG and given to the Houston/ Galveston region. “This could drop local funding to $66 million, down from the $208 million in round two funding set last summer and the $96.5 million recommended last month,” Diggles said. In an attempt to keep the money in Deep East Texas, Diggles met in Washington D.C. last Thursday and Friday with HUD offi cials where he suggested an alternative plan of taking $17 million from a statewide health care pool and giving it to the Houston/Galveston region in place of taking $30 million from DETCOG. “We’ve come to no resolution,” Diggles said. He added that an alternative proposal could come as early as Friday. During Thursday’s meeting in Coldspring, Diggles, along with DETCOG’s board of directors met with three attorneys in closed session to discuss the hurricane disaster relief funding. The three attorneys are former congressman Jim Turner, John Turner of Dallas and Jeff Bates of Lufkin. Discussing the importance of making a case before HUD for not moving any more funding from DETCOG, Diggles said a presentation was made showing the need for $60 million in housing funds alone throughout the DETCOG region. According to Diggles, there are 724 housing damage victims still waiting for help with the majority of those in San Jacinto and Polk counties. If an agreement cannot be reached, Diggles said, a decision on whether or not to take legal action will be decided by DETCOG’s board of directors. In other business, DETCOG’s Disaster Case Management Pilot Project was granted an extension request from Feb. 17, 2010. The project will be extended through Sept. 30, 2010. No new clients will be accepted after July 31. According to the committee report, 835 cases have been opened with 39 cases closed, with 310 cases with clients from the Federal Emergency Management Association’s (FEMA) list and 525 non-FEMA clients. The program, funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), provides long term case management services to citizens affected by the devastation of Hurricane Ike. Services provided include housing that leads to a long-term sustainable housing solution; basic furniture and supplies; job training to restore the ability to gain employment; assistance with physical or mental health resources; fi nancial counseling; transportation when needed for employment; and utility deposits or installation fees. Case management for the pilot program may address preexisting needs that were made worse by the disaster; the goal of which is to restore the client, at minimum, to a pre-hurricane level. Case management services will not address non-disaster needs such as needs that existed for the client prior to the hurricane or other pre-existing conditions such as medical, mental health, and substance abuse needs. A pool of qualifi ed contractors was approved that will provide construction services for emergency repair, rehabilitation, reconstruction and/or replacement of owner-occupied housing units in support of the disaster relief program. Contractors will be required to bring single family homes in the DETCOG service area affected by Hurricane Ike up to health and safety codes. Eight vendors were qualified out of 12 that submitted proposals. Those are Accurate Construction, McGregor, Texas; Cordova Construction, Nacogdoches, DSW Homes, Beaumont; Dynamic Structures, Inc., Shepherd; Eagle Construction, Lufkin; EE&G Construction and Electrical, Kemah; Excello Construction, Beaumont and Schenck Builders, Freeport. Giving his monthly report, Diggles drew attention to a report on the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Act (SRSCA) 2009 payments made. Over the last two months local forest counties and school districts have received their 2009 payments. Nationwide over $450 million has been dispensed. The 2009 payments reflected a 10 percent reduction from the $500 million payment received in 2008, according to a press release from the coalition. This year counties and schools nationwide will share a $405 million payment and in 2011 the payment will decline to $364.5 million. By contrast, if the SRSCA is not reauthorized by the time it expires in September 2011 all counties will revert to receiving 25 percent forest reserve payments under the new seven year rolling average. Those seven year rolling average payments would represent an 87 percent decrease from the funding received by counties and schools in 2008, the first year of the current fouryear reauthorization. A campaign is underway to achieve a longer term of eight to 10 years reauthorization or extension of the SRSCA prior to its expiration in September 2011. Diggles also reported on a grant workshop for firefighters. The Assistance to Firefighters Grant is a program of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Grants are awarded to fire departments to enhance their ability to protect the public and fire service personnel from fire and related hazards. Three types of grants are available: Assistance to Firefighters grants; Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grants and Fire Prevention and Safety Grants. The grants are made directly to local fire and EMS agencies to meet the firefighting and emergency response needs of fire departments and nonaffiliated EMS agencies. In 2008 about $737.5 million was awarded to more than 6,000 agencies across the nation. In some grants, no local match is required. Each year workshops are conducted to review the changes in the program and assist departments in preparing competitive applications. A representative from the grant program office will discuss 2010 grant goals as well as details of the application and tips on how to write a competitive application. The workshop session is free to all participants and will include time for questions. For more information on the grants and workshops, local firefighters may go to www. firegrantsupport.com


Polk County Publishing Company