Texas cities damaged by various disasters in the last five years still qualify for billions of dollars in federal aid, but an official with the Texas Division of Emergency Management testified before state lawmakers this week that the state needs to do a better job getting and using that money.
Chief W. Nim Kidd, the head of the Texas Division of Emergency Management, told the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Rural Affairs and Homeland Security that one of the areas in need of improvements is how to get counties affected by a disaster the federal money they need to rebuild.
“You see when we talk disaster recovery in Texas, we’re number one, and that’s no bragging," Kidd said. "We have more major disaster declarations than any other state in this nation."
The Senate committee was following up on how the state could improve it’s response to disasters, including how to navigate the system, identify needs and secure the federal grants and FEMA aid.
"There’s still $4.1 billion worth of federal money that our recovery staff is still trying to close -- whether it’s streets, water treatment facilities -- so as we continue to work through that the need that has been identified is being proactive in our recovery,” Kidd said.
Unlike neighboring states with a lower population, Kidd said Texas needs over $35 million in uninsured loss before the state because eligible for a federal disaster declaration. This month Gov. Rick Perry's office approved the hire of nine regional recovery coordinators stationed across the state. Kidd said their job will be working with cities to estimate a cities potential loss before a disaster hits.
“So we’re going to hire and put these regional recovery coordinators out across the state, not to work with the fire fighters and police officers, but to work with the city managers, the chief financial officers, the budget directors of those communities so that we know before the next disaster hits how we can help them better recover,” Kidd said.