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Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher spoke on a wide range of issues during a visit to Houston Public Media. The Houston Democrat represents the 7th Congressional District in west Harris County.
But why are people having to wait so long for help from the federal government? We posed that question to west Houston Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher, a Democrat who was elected last year to represent the 7th Congressional District. She defeated longtime Republican incumbent John Culberson. Much of her first year in office has been spent working with constituents who are still recovering, along with local governments that are seeking funds for flood control projects.
Fletcher said the first bill she introduced in Congress is something called the HELP Act. It assists local governments by allowing them to start flood control projects on their own without jeopardizing potential funding from FEMA.
“For example, there are projects that the city had identified or Harris County Flood Control had identified and wanted to do,” explained Fletcher. “But if they started the project it would be considered a project in progress and ineligible for FEMA funding. So they put in applications two years ago for certain projects like the Inwood Golf Course project and some of the other projects that have now been approved. But that process took two years.”
Meanwhile, individual homeowners often have to battle multiple bureaucracies on top of everything else they have to deal with following a natural disaster.
“It’s not centered around the victim. It’s centered around these different agencies,” said Fletcher. “It would be helpful to think of this through the perspective of someone who’s home has been flooded or been destroyed by a fire. Whatever the disaster is, let’s think about this from that vantage point and make it an easier process.”
Fletcher said she’d like input from people in her district on how to improve the process of applying for federal disaster assistance.
“When you’re in an emergency, when maybe you don’t have your records in front of you and you don’t have your internet access and you’re trying to keep your cell phone going, you just want to get as quickly as possible the right information,” she said. “Over the months and years it may take to recover, you need that process to be streamlined and simplified.”
Fletcher’s proposed HELP Act, the bill that would help local governments with their flood mitigation projects, is still awaiting a House vote.