Texas launches Harvey recovery tracker 6 months after storm

By MarketsAssociated Press

Texas launched a public online tool to track incoming and outgoing funds for Hurricane Harvey recovery on Monday, six months after the storm hit and two months after The Associated Press reported that it did not have one.

Gov. Greg Abbott called the tracker — which provides a county-level view of the more than $13 billion in flood insurance payouts, hotel vouchers and other forms of federal aid that has been disbursed so far — "a good start in achieving transparency" in a statement from the Texas A&M University System-based Commission to Rebuild Texas.

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The tracker contains data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Texas General Land Office. Additional information from other agencies will be added as it is provided to the commission, the statement said.

The AP reported in December that the absence of such a tool could hinder coordination and encourage fraud.

Abbott spokesman Matt Hirsch said in December that a funds tracker was in the works, but did not know what it would entail or when it would come online.

When asked Monday whether AP's reporting on the issue had sped up the launch of the tracker, A&M spokesman Reeve Hamilton said he was unable to comment.

After Harvey hammered Texas last August, Abbott pledged that the state would lead its own recovery, streamlining federal aid to storm victims while avoiding the inefficiencies of earlier Washington-controlled disaster responses.

"A Texas-sized storm requires a Texas-sized response, and that is exactly what the state will provide," Abbott said.

Abbott tapped A&M chancellor John Sharp to oversee the commission, and put Land Commissioner George P. Bush in charge of short- and long-term housing.

But rather than becoming a new model for disaster recovery, an AP analysis found Texas' efforts have often been slow to unfold and tangled with bureaucracy.

Harvey's 130-plus mph winds and torrential rainfall forced nearly 780,000 Texans to evacuate. About 900,000 later applied for government recovery assistance.

Federal records revealed it took nearly four times as long to house people in trailers after Harvey as it did following Hurricane Katrina, whose chaotic aftermath became a national scandal. Repairs to houses were also running months behind the pace following 2012's Super Storm Sandy and less catastrophic disasters like the Baton Rouge flooding in 2016.