1 year after Harvey: How have the hundreds of billions of federal relief, donations been distributed?

By Adriana Navarro, AccuWeather staff writer
August 24, 2018, 10:44:21 AM EDT

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A year after Hurricane Harvey, there are parts in Texas still recovering as relief efforts continue to distribute funds throughout the state.

According to National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Harvey is second only to Hurricane Katrina as the costliest hurricane to hit the United States at $125 billion. Katrina cost about $161 billion.

By the time December 2017 had rolled around, the United States government had sent about $11 billion in federal disaster aid to Texas, and the state was asking for $61 billion more in federal assistance.

After Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana had received almost $115 billion in federal aid.

Multiple organizations and companies have raised money and provided aid for the people of Houston. The companies and aid listed below have provided a combined amount of at least $26.82 billion of the $125 billion that Harvey caused.

Supplemental appropriations for disaster relief and recovery

On Feb. 9, the U.S. government passed a relief package to help states recover from the recent hurricanes, wildfires and other disasters.

Of the $89.3 billion provided, the largest sum to go to one agency was $28 billion to the Community Development Fund, a part of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The purpose of the money was to "repair homes, support local businesses and rebuild infrastructure while mitigating future risk."

The second highest amount to go to one agency was $23.5 billion to the Federal Emergency Management Administration's (FEMA) Disaster Relief Fund, with another $60 million going to the technical parts of the agency such as personnel and technology systems.

Federal Emergency Management Administration

As of Aug. 16, FEMA has distributed at least 1,058 daily public assistance grants to aid in the Harvey recovery efforts. The grants add up to about $817.8 million of the noted $818.1 million obligated as of Aug. 16.

Most of the public assistance grants go to protective measures, totaling around $452 million, a little over half of the cost of the grants.

After protective measures, the most amount of money went towards debris removal, accounting for a little over a third of the cost of the grants.

Since the passing of the supplemental appropriations, FEMA has granted almost $193 million in public assistance grants for the Harvey recovery efforts.

According to the report, the organization has approved 373,460 individual assistance applications for the Harvey recovery efforts, approving about $1.6 billion for its individuals and households program.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

HUD received the largest singular amount from the Supplemental Appropriations relief at $28 billion for the Community Development Fund.

A total of about $25.87 billion of that went towards recovery efforts from disasters in 2017, including Hurricane Harvey.

About $4.726 billion of that money went to Texas while the rest was split among California, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Puerto Rico received the most of this at a combined amount of about $18 billion for unmet needs and mitigation.

About $88 million went towards mitigation for disasters from 2015 and 2016.

In June, $5 billion more was approved through the Community Development Block Grant– Disaster Recovery Program to go to Harvey recovery efforts. About half of that is designated to go to the city of Houston and Harris County.

Harvey Flood Mitigation

Construction workers excavate and widen Brays Bayou as part of a nearly $500 million flood control project Thursday, March 22, 2018, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)


Small Business Administration

In January, the Small Business Administration (SBA) announced the approval of about $3 billion in federal disaster loans for Texas businesses and residents impacted by the hurricane that had hit four months earlier.

The loans break down to a total of about $291 million for businesses and $2.7 billion to help residents rebuild, according to the SBA's Disaster Field Operations Center-West Director, Tanya N. Garfield.

LGBTQ Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief Fund

The fund created to help LGBTQ community members displaced by Hurricane Harvey has collected a total of at least $1.23 million in donations.

The Montrose Center, a Houston, Texas, LGBTQ counseling and community center, manages the LGBTQ Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief Fund.

"I think we've become trusted because people, they see what we're doing," the Montrose Center Executive Director Dr. Ann Robison said. "They see that we're helping individuals and that we're helping a lot of people. They trust us with that."

Robison estimated that about 60 percent of the donations they had received went to rent and utilities for the people who applied for help in the Houston area.

"A lot of the restaurants around here closed, so we had a lot of food service workers that had lost their jobs or had temporarily lost their jobs," Robison said.

She attributed people losing their jobs and not being paid as one of the main reasons the majority of the money went towards rent and utilities.

The rest of the money goes towards other things from gift cards for food and supplies to rebuilding to paying to fix damaged cars.

Robison said that they have given reports to the donors who have asked what their money has helped with to show transparency.

The hurricane relief form on the Montrose Center website notes that while the center is primarily focused on helping the LGBTQ community to rebuild after Hurricane Harvey, they serve all people in need "regardless of their sexuality."

Hurricane Harvey Destruction

Damaged furniture is seen on the lawn from the window of the home of Christine Contreras Kahan, 61, on Sept. 26, 2017, a month after massive floods struck the nation's fourth largest city. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras)


United Way

The United Way claims it has approved $24.25 million to-date in grants to several different organizations. BakerRipley, nonprofit neighborhood centers for low-income families and individuals, received the most. The total cost of grants to the centers came to nearly $11.6 million.

Other organizations that the United Way gave to include Fort Bend Recovers, Catholic Charities and Habitat for Humanity.

Rebuild Texas Fund

The Rebuild Texas Fund has approved of at least 118 grants, totaling almost $43 million to various organization. Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church received the most from them at $3.15 million. The fund listed the focus area of this group as health and housing.

According to the website, the fund has raised a total of $93.1 million for Harvey recovery efforts.

J.J. Watt Foundation

In about 20 days in 2017, the Justin J. Watt Foundation raised over $37 million in Harvey relief funds. In October, Watt announced the foundation would distribute $30.15 million of the funds raised to four partners: Americares, Feeding America, Save the Children and SBP.

In his statement, Watt said the remaining $7 million would be distributed in 2018.

The American Red Cross

In the Chamber of Commerce's list of company donations to Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, about 532 companies made donations or pledges. The American Red Cross was the most popular organization on the receiving end of those donations.

Companies listed by the Chamber of Commerce donated at least $274 million with the amounts provided.

About $101.5 million of that went towards the American Red Cross.

In the Red Cross one-year report, the organization states that it has raised $522.7 million, and as of Aug. 23, 2018, has spent and committed $403.1 million of it.

The organization notes in the report that it plans to allocate the remaining program funds both towards unmet needs for individuals and families affected by the hurricane and towards long-term recovery services in the affected communities.

There have been questions of transparency from the American Red Cross in the Harvey relief efforts, as well as questions on what percentage of the donations go to relief efforts versus internal costs.

Issues of transparency

Past reports have questioned the transparency of where the money from the Harvey relief goes. A report published in June by The Pew Charitable Trusts found that most states "do not comprehensively track natural disaster spending."

The report notes that one of the challenges in collecting and comparing disaster spending information stems from the coordination of, or lack of, record-keeping and reporting across the different agencies.

Hurricane Harvey 1 year banner

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