Harvey recovery funds may prioritize wealthy, advocates say

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Advocacy groups said Friday that Texas is poised to unfairly distribute billions in federal funding provided for housing repairs following Hurricane Harvey's devastation — prioritizing wealthy homeowners over poorer victims in ways that could constitute racial discrimination.

At issue is a draft state rebuilding plan that says homeowners may only be eligible for federal assistance, regardless of income, if they suffered $8,000 in property damages. The renters' threshold is $2,000.

Harvey hit Texas in late August, damaging or destroying tens of thousands of homes in Houston. In addition to other disaster recovery approved by Congress, the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Agency has allocated a bit more than $5 billion to rebuild Texas homes.

But a coalition led by the Austin-based nonprofit Texas Housers says damage assessments to determine who is eligible to get help are based on data from Federal Emergency Management Agency inspections that calculate property losses rather than the full human toll of major natural disasters — making it more difficult for victims who live in lower income areas to meet damage thresholds.

They say that incomplete data, coupled with the thresholds, could combine to exclude low- and middleincome households from more than $1 billion in housing repair aid across Texas.

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