Gov. Abbott signs disaster relief bills into law


HOUSTON (Nexstar) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a $1.6 billion storm and flood resilience plan into law Thursday, nearly two years after Hurricane Harvey ravaged the Texas coast.

Lawmakers hope the bill will set the framework for the state to respond to future disasters after one of the most severe hurricanes in Texas history that killed more than 80 people.

“Thanks to the work of the legislature, we are rebuilding Texas stronger and more resilient than ever,” Abbott said, gathered with state lawmakers and local leaders in Houston.  “This was a challenge far beyond any challenge we had ever faced in the history of the state of Texas, and I am so proud of the way the people behind me stepped up to help their constituents deal with that challenge.”

Senate Bill 7, authored by Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, and sponsored by Rep. Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, establishes the Texas Infrastructure Resiliency Fund and the Flood Infrastructure Fund.

Part of the $1.6 billion for the funds comes out of the state’s savings fund for the communities effected by Hurricane Harvey that require a match from state funds to have access to federal aid.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill earlier this month that allocated $4 billion in aid to Texas.

The governor also signed three other bills that outline framework for disaster preparation and relief programs.

House Bill 5 creates a work group to advise local governments on how they can assess and assist with recovery efforts and requires the Texas Division of Emergency Management to develop a catastrophic debris management plan and a training program for responders.

House Bill 7 requires the governor to develop a list of laws to waive in the event of a disaster to improve the recovery process.

Senate Bill 6 requires the Texas Department of Emergency Management to develop a disaster response model guide and a wet debris study group for local communities.  It also creates a disaster recovery loan program for communities that suffered significant infrastructure damage from Harvey.

“Together, what these laws do is this:  They ensure that Texas and our local communities are doing far more than just a rebuilding in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey,” Abbott said.  “We are rebuilding Texas in ways that will be far better than before Hurricane Harvey struck.”

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