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Photo: Mark Mulligan, Houston Chronicle / Staff Photographer
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More than 9,000 Houstonians whose homes were damaged during Hurricane Harvey have responded to a city survey in hopes of getting some of the nearly $1.2 billion in federal recovery assistance, according to Houston officials said.
About 3,000 of the applicants have been moved into an application process and the city is working to sign up more people whose homes need repairs before the survey ends in May.
The city has five years to spend the recovery dollars and plans on beginning work in 500 homes this year.
“We wanted to organize the program so we were addressing the people who are hardest to reach and hardest to help but are the most vulnerable,” said Sarah Labowitz, assistant director of Houston’s Housing and Community Development Department. “The biggest obstacle is people lose hope. We’re at the point now where there is money available and we need people to have confidence in the system and the idea that help is on the way.”
The city’s survey sorts eligible applicants into six categories. Officials have already started reaching out to those in the top tiers — lower-income households, usually with a mix of elderly or disabled members or children. And 50 canvassers are working six days a week across Houston to urge people to take the survey.
Homeowners could be eligible for reimbursement checks for work already done, for city-directed renovations or for private contractors to do the work if approved by the city. Some residents may be eligible to have the city buy back their properties.
The City of Houston approved the $1.17 billion contract for government recovery assistance on Jan. 2 — about 16 months after Harvey — after federal dollars began flowing through the state of Texas and on to localities. Just over $4 billion in federal dollars bound for Texas is still tied up in government bickering.
Read more: Houston Chronicle reporter Sarah Smith has been following three Harvey victims as they try to rebuild their homes and their lives after the storm. Read her latest story about how Annie Green, Alberta Fleming and Malberth Moses are coping with the storm and how close they are to getting some of the federal recovery dollars.
How to get help
To obtain recovery money from the city of Houston, you must fill out a survey at https://recovery.houstontx.gov/survey/ or call 832-393-0550. You can also visit one of the city’s four Housing Resource Centers:
13101 Northwest Freeway Suite 101
9551 N. Wayside Dr.
11550 Fuqua St, 3rd Floor
6464 Savoy Drive, Suite 110
Note: If you want to share your story about recovering from Harvey, contact reporter Sarah Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.