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Texas Signs Disaster Relief And Preparedness Legislation Into Law

14 Jun 2019, 3:09 am

[Texas Governor Greg Abbott Thursday signing disaster relief and preparedness bills into law at Gallery Furniture in Houston. Image courtesy of the State of Texas]

[State of Texas] Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law several monumental bills related to disaster relief and preparedness on Thursday. As a result of Hurricane Harvey, Governor Abbott made this issue an emergency legislative item this session, resulting in several bills being passed that will better prepare the state for future disasters. Additionally, the legislature voted to appropriate $3 billion in relief for Harvey-impacted areas from the Rainy Day Fund.

The bill signing was held at Gallery Furniture in Houston, owned by Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale. When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston in August 2017, McIngvale opened two of his stores as shelter for Houstonians displaced by the storm. McIngvale’s company also deployed its largest moving truck to help rescue those displaced by flooding.

“Thanks to the work of the legislature, we are rebuilding Texas stronger and more resilient than ever,” said Governor Abbott. “In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, we saw the unshakable spirit of the Lone Star State through the generosity of Texans helping their neighbors. These important pieces of legislation are a symbol of that spirit, as well as a sign of Texas’ commitment to improving the way we respond to natural disasters.”

It is now required that the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) to develop a catastrophic debris management plan and training and establishes a work group to make recommendations on how local governments and property owners’ associations can assist with recovery efforts. It also requires TDEM to develop a model contract for debris removal.

[Debris lies the street of Dickinson, Texas, two months after Hurricane Harvey flooded the area. From NOAA]

Also, the Office of the Governor is required to develop a list of waivers that could be implemented following a disaster, and requires TDEM to develop a plan to assist local communities with disaster preparation contracts for services.

TDEM will develop a disaster response model guide and a wet debris study group for local communities. The bill also creates a disaster recovery loan program within TDEM for communities that suffered significant infrastructure damage.

[Soldiers with the Texas Army National Guard move through flooded Houston streets as floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey continue to rise, Monday, August 28, 2017. U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Zachary West]

The new law establishes the framework for providing a total of $1.6 billion through the Texas Infrastructure Resilience Fund (TIRF) as matching funds available to those communities hardest hit by Hurricane Harvey, and through the Flood Infrastructure Fund for statewide infrastructure projects to mitigate future flooding events.

Edited for WeatherNation by Meteorologist Mace Michaels