Hurricane Harvey homeowner aid program opens for applications for affected counties

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Homeowners in southeast Texas looking for additional relief after Hurricane Harvey may be eligible for a new aid program established through the Texas General Land Office.

The land office announced this week that it is accepting applications from residents in 48 counties for the Homeowner Assistance Program, which will help rehabilitate and reconstruct thousands of owner-occupied single-family homes damaged by Harvey in 2017.

The agency allocated more then $1 billion in federal Community Development Block Grants for disaster recovery for the program.

“With more than $1 billion allocated to it, this is the largest single program designed to help rebuild the lives of thousands of Texas families,” said George P. Bush, the state land commissioner, in a written statement. “Now our focus turns to spreading the word that help is here for those who are still struggling to repair their homes and rebuild their lives.”

The program represents the largest individual initiative within the $2.7 billion that will be managed by the General Land Office. Congress appropriated a total of $5 billion to Texas for Harvey recovery, with Houston and Harris County receiving a direct allocation of $2.3 billion.

Houston and Harris County are not included in the Homeowner Assistance Program.

Houston’s Housing and Community Development Department plans to launch a Homeowner Reimbursement Program to pay back homeowners for eligible Harvey-related repair expenses. The reimbursement program is part of an overall action plan still awaiting approval from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The 48 counties are divided into six regions, each of which has received a portion of the $1 billion in funding for homeowner assistance, based on need.

The HGAC-East/Gulf Coast region, which includes Brazoria, Chambers, Galveston, Liberty, Montgomery, and Walker counties, received the highest allocation of funding — more than $258 million. The General Land Office said that Dickinson, a city in Galveston County that was hit particularly hard during Harvey, has submitted the most completed applications for homeowner assistance in that region.

The HGAC-West/Lower Colorado Region (Austin, Colorado, Fort Bend, Matagorda, Waller, Wharton counties) received $218.6 million. The South East Texas region (Hardin, Jefferson, Orange counties) got $205 million. The Deep East Texas region (Jasper, Newton, Polk, Sabine, San Augustine, San Jacinto, Tyler counties) received $127 million. The Coastal Bend region (Aransas, Bee, Jim Wells, Kleberg, Nueces, Refugio, San Patricio counties) received $121 million. The Central/Golden Crescent region, (Bastrop, Burleson, Caldwell, Calhoun, Comal, DeWitt, Fayette, Goliad, Gonzales, Grimes, Guadalupe, Jackson, Karnes, Lavaca, Lee, Madison, Milam, Victoria, Washington counties) got $116.8 million.

Brittany Eck, a spokeswoman for the General Land Office, said that 1,000 applications have been started across the six regions since Monday, with about 20 percent of those completed. Applicants are being considered on first-come, first-serve basis.

Applicants are potentially eligible for assistance within their region if they owned a home, it was damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Harvey, and it was their primary residence, among other eligibility criteria.

After a person submits an application, it will take up to two weeks to find out whether he or she meets the criteria to qualify for the program, and longer to determine whether that person will get any assistance. After a homeowner is accepted, construction work should be completed within six months.

Interested homeowners can apply for assistance online or in person at regional Homeowner Assistance Program offices serving their area. In addition to a main office in each of the six regions, each county will have at least one application drop-off location or satellite office.