Bypass the GLO

Heck yeah.

All five members of Harris County Commissioners Court signed onto a letter Friday asking the local congressional delegation to ensure that future disaster relief bypasses the state government and goes directly to large counties.

The letter is the latest round of bipartisan outrage in Houston triggered by the Texas General Land Office’s decision last May to initially shut out the city and the county — the epicenter of flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey — from $1 billion in flood control dollars later awarded to Texas after the 2017 storm.

The letter suggests that Congress or a federal agency require future disaster relief go directly to counties with at least 500,000 residents, instead of being administered by state agencies.

The court’s two Republicans, Commissioners Jack Cagle and Tom Ramsey, joined the court’s Democratic majority — County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioners Rodney Ellis and Adrian Garcia — in signing the letter. Cagle and Ramsey had been sharply critical of fellow Republican George P. Bush, who runs the GLO, after the agency declined to award any money to the city or county.

In the letter, the five court members wrote that a direct allocation of federal aid would “bypass potential bureaucratic delay caused by various Texas agencies and by other entities that will harm our ability to have quick and efficient implementation.”

They did not mention the GLO by name, though the letter was sent to Harris County’s nine-member congressional delegation one week after federal officials halted the distribution of nearly $2 billion in flood control funds to Texas because, they said, the GLO had failed to send in required paperwork detailing its plans to spend the money.

I mean, based on past experience, why would we want to do it any other way? The GLO isn’t just not adding value here, they’re actively reducing it. It’s not a surprise that even the Republican commissioners signed on to this.

On a more philosophical note, a lot of federal relief funds that are targeted at cities and counties and school districts and whatnot have had to go through the state first. For the most part, with COVID funds, the Lege mostly rubber stamped it without much fuss. I know there had been concerns with the pace at which Harvey recovery funds had been spent and homes were being repaired – indeed, there are still a lot of unrepaired homes after all this time – but it seems that a big part of that problem has been having multiple layers of government involved, which led to conflicts and delays and issues getting funds to the people who needed them the most. Indeed, that story also cites issues with the way the GLO interacted with the city of Houston. With COVID relief there were issues with unemployment funds having to go through rickety state systems, no direct way to get other relief funds to people who didn’t have bank accounts, and so forth. There are bigger issues, having to do with underlying infrastructure, that are a big part of this. But even factoring that out, putting states in charge of distributing federal relief funds to localities has been a problem. More so in some states than in others. I don’t know what we can do about that, given everything else going on right now. But we really should do something.

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5 Responses to Bypass the GLO

  1. Jason Hochman says:

    I am not sure if the local officials at the county and the city really understand about how federal funding works. Congress allocates the money, and the congressional action and/or the policies of the federal agency dictate how the funding is distributed. They really need to review the CFDA number to determine the specific objective of the federal program.

    Further, federal funding has all kinds of strings attached, and all kinds of administrative red tape. It is a cumbersome process, and not the yellow brick road to instant bags of money. In reality, the HUD funding that went to the GLO for distribution appears to me was intended to help communities with less revenue. In other words, the less populous areas. Meanwhile, larger cities with more money could be expected to fund improvements on their own.

    That may be a tall order for the people who run Houston and Harris County. The city can’t get recycling picked up. Call the police and someone will arrive after three hours. The streets and highways are not kept up. Add to that the way that the County Judge used the HUD money as a gift to Elevate, and then was pressured to cancel that contract. Then, we have the Mayor of Houston, who was convicted by HUD of using funding to promote segregation in housing. Then we have the city council which refuses to impeach him for being a racist, and perhaps even a Proud Boy or some other racist group.

    If nothing else, this should demonstrate the circuitous and inefficient process of federal funding, as well as the fraud, corruption, and gift giving that comes out of it. This is what happens when you extort and steal money through taxation and redistribute it.

  2. Linkmeister says:

    Have there been similar problems with relief funds meant to pay landlords and avoid evictions?

  3. Jason Hochman says:

    Linkmeister, that is a good question, but you may have seen the stories about people who got the Covid money and bought luxury cars, new houses, and other high dollar items.

    The theft and redistribution of money is just a pathway to corruption and political gift giving. The two party/one party system doesn’t represent me, nor does it represent most regular folks. Your Founders went to war for less, insurrecting against their rightful King.

  4. C.L. says:

    Dr. Hochman, I’m not sure how money not gifted to Harris County by the GLO was able to be used by the County Judge as a gift to Elevate. Can you help explain that ?

    Also, I don’t believe it is Houston or Harris County’s responsibility to ‘keep up’ the various Interstate highways running through the City of Houston.

  5. Jason Hochman says:

    Dr. C.L, the money used for the Elevate outreach contract was from a different HUD program, or perhaps it was FEMA, I am sorry, I don’t actually remember. But it was going to be funded with federal money before it ended up being terminated due to corruption discovered. The city and county should be sweeping up the streets and such.

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