In early March, leaders from the Texas Senate revealed details about a $1.8 billion package of disaster relief bills. Then, later in the month, all three bills in the package receive unanimous approval. The set of bills sets aside Hurricane Harvey aid and funds to protect the city from future storms.
Senate Bill 6
This bill requires the Texas Division of Emergency Management to create a set of instructions for disaster response and recovery. These guides will be used by officials during the next major storm and will set standards for proper debris cleanup afterward. This bill also requires the creation of a team which will study the best methods to train local emergency management directors.
Senate Bill 7
This bill creates four sets of funds which total over $1.6 billion. These funds are to be administered by the Texas Water Development Board to pay for flood control projects. Notably, the bill helps provide funds that Harvey-impacted communities need to trigger the use of federal recovery dollars. These “matching funds” will significantly assist low-income neighborhoods. Another part of the money will finance flood preparation across the entire state.
Senate Bill 8
This bill creates a statewide flood plan. It will consist of a list of flood control projects and will be used to manage different watersheds across the state. The bill also requires that a 10-year plan be created for the repair of unsafe dams throughout the state. Its estimated cost if $47 million over two years.
A Moment of Unity
Money from this bill will be taken from the state’s emergency savings account. During the package’s approval process, party leaders, local officials, and flood-planning groups expressed support for the trio of bills. Democrats were also able to add an amendment to investigate creating a single intake application for federal and state assistance. The set of bills will also help struggling school districts which lost funding because of children who moved away after the storm.
"I want to say to the victims of Hurricane Harvey: We heard you," said State Senator Lois Kolkhorst. "We’re with you. We’re not going to leave you. We’ve got your back."