Could Texas Have State Level Disaster Grants?
SB 351 could give Texas the ability to provide state level disaster grants, similar to what FEMA already does.
The 85th Texas Legislature just called their first regular session this past month. With that, a plethora of bills were filed by state legislators seeking to get their ideas out into their chamber for consideration. One of theses bills was proposed by Senator Kirk Watson from District 14. SB 351 proposes establishing a disaster recovery fund and providing post-disaster grants to local governments (county and municipal), state agencies, and volunteer organizations.
The current system of emergency management under the Stafford Act Disaster Relief Act requires that each level of government or entity exhaust their response and recovery resources before asking for support from the next higher level. In the past, the Texas has been able to provide some funds to entities within the state for recovery purposes; state statute has generally limited support to helping with the state’s cost share of federal disaster grant programs. This is not a hard rule because there are many areas in state statute that allow for disaster grants to be awarded by the governor; however, the funding is largely driven from the federal level. This bill could change all of that.
SB 351 would establish a Disaster Recovery Fund and allow the Texas Division of Emergency Management to administer the fund. After reading the initial text of the bill (which has not been heard in committee yet) it appears that this is essentially duplicating the federal program, at the state level. This can be a good thing for Texas in helping relieve the need to try and help areas impacted by a disaster that has not received a declaration status by the president–which is highly discretionary and is considered to be highly politicized.
We will help keep an eye on this bill as it moves through the State Senate.