Apr. 23, 2020

Mayor Sylvester Turner , fighting Republican Austin leadership for Harvey funds for residents.

Mayor Turner's statement on the Texas General Land Office
HOUSTON - Please attribute the following statement to Mayor Sylvester Turner.

"We knew from the first day that it would take both the City and the GLO working together to make our recovery program successful. The City has been a good partner with the GLO from the beginning. We were a good partner when the GLO failed to give us written guidance for what they needed to approve homes for repair. We were a good partner when GLO changed the process midstream over and over again (as recently as April 6th), requiring the reworking of hundreds of already processed homeowner files. We were a good partner when the GLO required documentation that went far beyond HUD’s requirements. We were a good partner when the GLO refused to allow Houstonians to recover to at least a 3-bedroom home, and we used City funds to pay for the third bedroom the GLO refused to allow. And we remained a good partner even when in January the GLO suddenly shifted from approving more than 75% of our home repair files to rejecting more than 75% of our home repair files.

"When you are in a partnership, and one side doesn’t work with the other side, it doesn’t work.

"Just last Friday, after a thorough audit and review, the GLO sent me a letter indicating that they were satisfied with the City’s actions regarding timely expenditure of this grant within the 6-year term. Five days later and directly contradicting his own team, Commissioner Bush now says that slow spending requires him to terminate our contract with the GLO. There’s only one answer why Commissioner Bush would draw a different conclusion than the one carefully reached by the GLO’s Monitoring and Quality Assurance team—politics.

"The City has more than 1700 files fully reviewed; for 975 of those files, we are collecting the final documents the GLO says they need before they can approve the file. The other 725 homes are already in the inspection, environmental, or construction process. As of today, the GLO has approved 195 homes, and another 150 homes will soon be ready for approval if the GLO will provide the reasonable waivers for expired Driver’s Licenses and other difficult to obtain documentation during a pandemic.

"Finally, let me note that in the face of unrealistic, frivolous requirements, the City has quietly worked to correct our issues, expecting the GLO to do the same. Instead, the GLO’s lack of capacity for reviewing our files, their ongoing technical issues, their failure to provide clear and consistent guidance for what they needed up front, and their slow-walking of many of the other documents required for our recovery programs contributed to the delay Commissioner Bush now uses to attempt to strip the City of its funding.

"While the City, like many others, is consumed with addressing COVID-19, the State GLO is attempting to take over the program for reasons not prescribed in the contractual agreements between the parties. The City will, therefore, take all necessary legal steps to protect the interest of the people impacted by Harvey and preserve its authority to administer the program."