August 16, 2018

2015 Disaster Grant Application Update

We spend a lot of time and effort disseminating information and communicating with you on issues important to our community, and are constantly looking for ways to improve on that.  (My blog for example, which I thank you for reading and hope you find helpful.)  As difficult as it can already be to reach people who are busy with their own work, family and personal lives, it's unfortunate just how much misinformation there is out there that we have to contend with on a seemingly daily basis.  Social media, never known for robust fact-checking, only exacerbates the problem by perpetuating inaccurate reports rather than living up to its potential as a means of sharing good information with others.

This week, some have expressed concern after hearing that the City of Bellaire has been awarded a quarter-million dollar disaster grant relating to the 2015 flood, but won't actually receive that funding because we haven't applied.  And they'd be right to be concerned—if only it were true.  It's far more complicated than that, and in fact, the City has been actively engaged with county and state officials for months now, working with them to increase our chances.

At issue is the federal requirement for Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funding that at least 70% of the infrastructure projects to be funded must benefit low-to-moderate income persons.  For a community to be declared eligible to apply for these grants does not mean it has satisfied that requirement.  Any application that's submitted cannot be approved until the 70% low-to-moderate income benefit, on a regional basis, is established.  (In a previous post, I wrote about our efforts following Hurricane Harvey to advocate for reduced income-based restrictions on eligibility for Harvey-related CDBG-DR grants.)

Contrary to what's been reported this week, the City has not been awarded any such grants.  Where the quarter-million dollar figure comes from is the Harris County Method of Distribution (MOD) for the 2015 flood, which is the allocation formula proposed by the County and approved by the Texas General Land Office (GLO).  Pursuant to that MOD, the City of Bellaire would be awarded its share of CDBG-DR funding, if and only if we can show that Harris County has satisfied the low-to-moderate income requirement.  Which is why our staff has been working so closely with county and state officials on our application, including in a follow up meeting earlier today.  All applicable deadlines have been met.  The suggestion that the City has been sitting on its hands, apparently based on some form letters received from the GLO, is just plain false.

As we have following all of the recent storms, we'll continue pursuing every possible source of grant funding potentially available to us.  Given how complicated these programs can be, and the amount of confusion and misinformation floating around out there, I encourage you to contact the Development Services Department directly should you have any questions about the process and what we're doing to maximize our eligibility.