Community Development Block Grants
It’s hurricane season here on the Gulf Coast of Texas, and it is unlikely any of us missed NOAA’s prediction of an active hurricane season. Hurricanes, heavy rain events and flooding are part of living in this part of the U.S. and flooding is a legitimate concern world-wide. It was announced recently that Houston and Harris County were denied flood mitigation funds to the surprise of everyone. Houston, the 4th largest city in the U.S. surely merits and requires federal money to assist in all efforts to mitigate the impact of flooding.
Cities across Texas applied for grants through the Texas General Land Office in hopes of receiving money to assist in efforts to construct or improve existing flood control measures, infrastructure, and drainage improvements. In fact, Texas cities compete for funds. Strange way to distribute funds to potentially save lives and livelihoods, but there it is.
The Texas General Land Office, which is responsible for allocating U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) flood mitigation dollars, announced last month that Harris County and the City of Houston would receive nothing of the more than $1.3 billion sought for 14 mitigation projects. Approximately $1 billion will be distributed in Texas by the GLO elsewhere in Texas.
The Community Development Block Grant Mitigation (CDBG-MIT) Program is a method for eligible grantees to obtain financial assistance in areas impacted by recent disasters and mitigate disaster risks and reduce future losses. The U.S. Congress appropriated $12 billion in CDBG funds in February 2018 specifically for mitigation activities for qualifying disasters in 2015, 2016, and 2017, and HUD was able to allocate an additional $3.9 billion, bringing the amount available for mitigation to nearly $16 billion.
A State Action Plan is a requirement under the Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery Program for the distribution of CBDG-DR grant funds. In Texas, the GLO is the responsible entity for publishing the State Action Plan in accordance with requirements provided in the Federal Register (FR) by HUD.
The (federal) program defines mitigation as activities that:
Increase resilience to disasters and reduce or eliminate the long-term risk of loss of life, injury, damage to and loss of property, and suffering and hardship by lessening the impact of future disasters. Flood mitigation projects typically include channel widening, construction of detention basins and drainage improvements to help communities manage the Gulf Coast’s frequent, heavy rainstorms.
Additionally, there are TXCDBG grants administered by the Texas Department of Agriculture for rural communities. These eligible communities are called “non-entitlement” communities [cities with a population of less than 50,000 and counties with less than 200,000]. These communities are called non-entitlement because entitlement areas are eligible for funding from the federal Community Development Block Grant. TXCDBG Community Development Fund (CDF) provides grant funding to cities and counties for water, sewer, housing, and other improvements. The 2021-2022 Community Development Fund Application Guide is online for cities to determine eligibility.
Hurricane Season in Texas means preparation for all of us. The Texas Municipal League has a webpage for municipalities in Texas to use as a resource in research grants such as the CDBG-Mitigation grants. FEMA attorneys have presented programs to the Texas City Attorneys Association and members of the Texas Municipal League regarding disaster recovery, mitigation and procurement; last held after Hurricane Harvey, let’s hope no serious disasters lead to another such workshop.
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