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Sens. Cruz, Cornyn Op-Ed in Houston Chronicle: A Year Later, We’ve Still Got Texas’ Back

‘Over the last year, working together, Texans have begun to heal and rebuild. But the job isn’t finished — which is why we’re here to say: Houston, we’ve still got your back’

August 27, 2018

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DALLAS, Texas – On the first anniversary of Hurricane Harvey’s landfall, U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) penned an op-ed for the Houston Chronicle recognizing the devastation Hurricane Harvey wrought on the Texas Gulf Coast, and highlighting their efforts to support Texas’ rebuilding and recovery efforts. Sen. Cruz also released a video highlighting the courage and resilience of Texas, and the progress made on the road to recovery.

“Following the emergency response, our job in Washington was just beginning. Communities along the Texas coast needed rebuilding,” the senators wrote. “In the weeks and months following landfall, Congress passed three separate aid bills totaling $147 billion for Harvey and other disasters. […] The two of us worked to pass a new law allowing Texans to receive tax deductions for hurricane-related expenses — providing more than $5 billion in emergency tax relief — and we pushed FEMA to reverse a policy that prevented houses of worship from accessing disaster relief funds. […] There isn’t much sense in rebuilding, however, without ensuring the region can withstand major weather events in the future. That’s why we made sure the third disaster aid bill — a response to multiple hurricanes and wildfires across the country — designated roughly half of the relevant U.S. Army Corps of Engineers construction funds for Texas-specific projects. And HUD recently announced an additional $5 billion for Texas to help primarily with Texas mitigation efforts.”

Read the op-ed in its entirety here and below:

A Year Later, We’ve Still Got Texas’ Back
Houston Chronicle
August 26, 2018
By: Senator Ted Cruz and Senator John Cornyn 

Nearly one year ago on these pages, we made a commitment to Texans reeling in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Long-term assistance and resources were needed, and we pledged a vigorous response in Washington. Twelve months later, the painful memories linger — with some still flinching at the sound of pelting rain — and the recovery isn’t finished. But together we’ve made progress. 

After crashing into the Coastal Bend community of Rockport, Harvey wreaked havoc up and down our Texas Gulf Coast. It shattered records and stole 68 lives, a goliath that experts said comes perhaps only once every thousand years. Beaumont, Victoria, Port Arthur: These are just a few communities where Texans braced themselves against devastating winds, paddled down their streets or waded through their living rooms. Houston-area residents we met in Friendswood, Meyerland, Kingwood, at the George R. Brown Convention Center and the NRG Center faced the same flooding — or worse. 

The destruction was on a scale our state had never seen. But Texans rose to the occasion. Good Samaritans rescued stranded neighbors and opened businesses to the displaced. A boy in Philadelphia sold lemonade and sent the proceeds to the American Red Cross on behalf of the Bayou City, his old hometown.

Following the emergency response, our job in Washington was just beginning. Communities along the Texas coast needed rebuilding. In the weeks and months following landfall, Congress passed three separate aid bills totaling $147 billion for Harvey and other disasters. Debris was cleared and ports reopened. The National Flood Insurance Program expedited homeowners’ claims, while the Small Business Administration approved disaster loans. 

The two of us worked to pass a new law allowing Texans to receive tax deductions for hurricane-related expenses — providing more than $5 billion in emergency tax relief — and we pushed FEMA to reverse a policy that prevented houses of worship from accessing disaster relief funds. Afterward, we codified this change into law. Meanwhile, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced plans to use $5 billion of the disaster funds we appropriated to help Texas homeowners and small businesses rebuild. These resources will pay for buyouts, rental property construction and reimbursements for repair costs incurred in the wake of the storm. And HUD recently announced an additional $5 billion for Texas to help primarily with Texas mitigation efforts. 

There isn’t much sense in rebuilding, however, without ensuring the region can withstand major weather events in the future. That’s why we made sure the third disaster aid bill — a response to multiple hurricanes and wildfires across the country — designated roughly half of the relevant U.S. Army Corps of Engineers construction funds for Texas-specific projects.

Now, thanks to the Corps, state and local partners, and our colleagues in Congress, some of the most pressing infrastructure improvements are under way. Across more than 4,000 square miles between Sabine Pass and Galveston Bay, a series of storm surge and flood protection measures will update levee systems and, in some cases, construct new ones. In places like Clear Creek and Brays Bayou, the funds will be used to widen channels, construct detention basins, replace bridges and renovate dams. Importantly, these projects include cost-share requirements, a reflection of the partnership between Texas, local officials and the Trump administration to rebuild. Instead of a single infrastructure project, the result will be a new, multilayered system of improvements to address our most acute vulnerabilities. 

At the same time, long-term planning with the Texas General Land Office, the governor’s office, as well as the entire Texas congressional delegation continues. The Corps’ ongoing Coastal Texas Study — funded by Congress — will provide a comprehensive strategy for flood mitigation, which is a necessary next step toward coastal protection. We are confident that having the smartest engineering minds study our coast will result in recommendations that Congress can then authorize. Once that happens, and in coordination with the Texas lawmakers and local officials, we’ll fight to ensure our coastal communities flourish for generations to come.

As your U.S. senators, at times of tragedy, we’ve found ourselves in living rooms, churches and gymnasiums across this great state — looking for the right words and then the right policies to address them. Few catastrophes, however, have affected so many Texans, and in such a devastating way, as Hurricane Harvey. Over the last year, working together, Texans have begun to heal and rebuild. But the job isn’t finished — which is why we’re here to say: Houston, we’ve still got your back. 

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