The Department of Housing and Urban Development announced last year that it was awarding a record $28 billion in funds to help states recover from natural disasters.
Part of that sum included $16 billion that would be earmarked to fund mitigation efforts in areas that have experienced major presidentially declared disasters since 2015.
Now, the department is getting ready to release its plan for the disbursement of those disaster funds, with senior HUD officials revealing Friday that the $16 billion will be released in two separate tranches.
The first tranche will funnel funds to Texas, Louisiana, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, California, Missouri, and Georgia, while the second will include funds for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The agency said it was releasing the money in two batches because of concerns about corruption in the U.S. territories that might lead to an abuse of the funds.
“We have some concerns about their (the U.S. territories) controls that we need to iron out, but we didn’t want to hold off on the funding for the states,” a senior HUD official said Friday on a call with reporters.
HUD Secretary Ben Carson reiterated this idea in a release about the pending announcement of grant details.
“Recovery efforts in jurisdictions prepared to do their part should not be held back due to alleged corruption, fiscal irregularities and financial mismanagement occurring in Puerto Rico and capacity issues in the U.S. Virgin Islands, which is why HUD will award disaster mitigation funds in two separate tranches,” Carson said.
“Untangling these funds from each other will help recovery and planning move forward in communities capable of properly and prudently disbursing funds, all the while protecting taxpayers who are footing the bill,” he added.
The agency said this is the first time it has specifically set aside funds for mitigation efforts, a step it is taking in the hopes that it will save money in the long run by better preparing disaster-prone areas to handle future destruction.
Once the notice is officially posted in the Federal Register, states can begin working on a plan for the grant money. HUD said once their proposals are approved, the states will have access to the funds in a line of credit.
Several lawmakers from states that will receive the grant money expressed their support of HUD’s plan.
Sen. Richard Burr, R-NC, said that with hurricane season already begun, it’s critical that North Carolina have the funds to address long-term vulnerabilities.
“This funding will provide North Carolina with much-needed flexibility to spend on critical mitigation efforts, such as strengthening our river basins and infrastructure along the coast,” Burr said.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, said South Carolina has been waiting for these funds since the grant was first announced in April 2018.
“This is an important down payment that will help South Carolina rebuild and mitigate the risk of future disasters,” Graham said. “I look forward to continuing to work with our delegation to ensure all of South Carolina’s recovery needs are met.”
Here is a breakdown of the funds to be allocated for each state and territory:
Texas: $4.3 million
Louisiana: $1.2 billion
Florida: $633 million
North Carolina: $168 million
South Carolina: $158 million
West Virginia: $106 million
California: $88 million
Missouri: $42 million
Georgia: $27 million
Puerto Rico: $8.29 billion
U.S. Virgin Islands: $774 million