Houston – Today, Representative Hubert Vo, Representative of House District 149, released the following statement in response to the Hurricane Harvey Operational Plan.

“On Friday, September 8th, I, along with other elected officials, met with Governor Greg Abbott in Houston to discuss Hurricane Harvey’s recovery plan. Governor Abbott has appointed Texas A&M University System John Sharp to serve as the Commissioner of the Governor’s Commission to Rebuild Texas. This commission will oversee the rebuilding of Texas communities along the Gulf coast in response to the devastation due to Hurricane Harvey. The focus of this commission includes efforts related to rebuilding public infrastructure in the affected counties and allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to handle the repair and replacement of private structures (homes, etc.)”

“During the meeting, it was agreed upon that one of the top priorities is completing the rebuilding along the Gulf coast as quickly as possible and restoring it as a central element of Texas’ economy. To help achieve this goal, a three-prong approach has been implemented to ensure that Texas is able to meet the unique needs in various communities. The approach consists of an assistance center, an informational clearinghouse and a response team.”

“The assistance center will be comprised of individuals who are knowledgeable in state and federal law, FEMA procedures, and large-scale construction rules. The information clearinghouse will help provide contact with local officials on Hurricane Harvey disaster relief. Affected counties will be divided into five regions who will assist in directing individuals to the appropriate department. Lastly, the response team will maintain a direct line of contact with Texas’ Chief Operations Officer to ensure state agencies receive real-time information and can quickly respond to address issues that arise. The response team will also review infrastructure assessments and recommend construction suggestions and approaches that will help maximize the sustainability of any reconstructed infrastructure from future catastrophic weather events.”

“Locally, I have contacted many District 149 constituents, organizations and school districts. After discussing the many concerns and priorities of our community, I have assessed our communities needs into short and long-term needs. Due to Hurricane Harvey, all neighborhood subdivisions, bayous and ponds throughout our District have had a significant increase in mosquito breeding. As one of our community’s short-term needs, this issue needs to be addressed as it can further cause environmental damage to our beautiful parks and lakes. Another environmental need that needs immediate attention is the flooding problem areas throughout various parts of District 149. Due to the immense flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey, bayous, reservoirs and creeks are still heavily flooded. Further, water levels continue to increase as the bayous and creeks are not built to handle the increasing amount of water. Keegan’s Bayou, which flows along the south end of Alief, has even flooded into neighborhoods and homes. I urge the State to provide adequate funding and attention for this issue before it becomes increasingly difficult to remedy.”

“Alongside our short-term needs are our community’s long-term needs, specifically geared towards our school district. Our public schools have been affected severely by Hurricane Harvey, however through patience and support, I am confident that we will be able to work through this issue together. After meeting with community members and listening to suggestions about our school district’s needs, I believe legislators should bring to light the cost of funding the many school districts that have been affected by Hurricane Harvey. I believe it’s important to consider adjusting the funding for many departments that are part of a school district, such as transportation costs. With many students displaced due to Harvey, many will be traveling long distances to make it to school. There may be an increase in ridership via public and school buses and as legislators, I consider it our responsibility to adjust school funding to prioritize these unexpected costs.”

“As part of the Rebuild Texas initiative, the commission should also focus their attention towards school district property and flood insurance. Due to catastrophic weather events in previous years, school districts have been subjected to an increase in property insurance without state funding or compensation to cover these uncontrollable costs. For this reason, I plan to suggest to the Rebuild Texas Commission to oversee this issue as well as meet with the Texas Education Agency to review the possibility of increasing the Cost of Education Index.”

“Hurricane Harvey has left many teachers and students displaced. As a community and a state, it is our responsibility to understand that continuous patience and support is required to help teachers, students, and faculty members get through the vast changes that have impacted the lives of many people. Our schools will need time to deal with the social and emotional needs of staff, students and parents and I know our community will come together to help each other out.”

“It is remarkable to see that the City of Houston has come together during a difficult time like this. We have shown Texas and the nation that we truly are Houston Strong. Growing up in this great city, I know that together, we will overcome this challenge and recover to the fullest extent. My office and I are continuously working to provide our constituents the most up to date information. This includes information on how to file insurance claims, receive FEMA assistance, apply for unemployment compensation through the Texas Workforce Commission – anything that can help families rebuild their homes and life again. In the meantime, should you have any questions or would like to offer suggestions towards our community’s disaster relief efforts, please do not hesitate to contact my District Community Liaison, Edith Rodriguez, at (281) 988-0212 or Edith.Rodriguez@house.texas.gov. If you have any questions related to insurance claims, please contact my Capitol office at (512) 463-0568. As always, my staff members and I are here to assist District 149 constituents in any way possible.”