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Rich, white towns are getting more hurricane recovery help than others

One town got $60,000 per person. A neighboring area got just $84.

HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 30:  Flooded homes are shown near Lake Houston following Hurricane Harvey August 30, 2017 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 30: Flooded homes are shown near Lake Houston following Hurricane Harvey August 30, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Small, rich, white towns in southeast Texas are getting a disproportionate amount in federal disaster recovery funds following Hurricane Harvey compared to neighboring communities that are poorer and have a larger minority population, according to a new report by City Lab.

The report pointed out the very affluent and very white community of Taylor Landing, a small town of just 228 residents, which received $1.3 million in funds to help its 22 hurricane affected residents. That comes to about $60,000 per affected resident.

Meanwhile, just 15 miles east, Port Arthur received just $84 in federal funding per person. Out of 54,000 residents — more than a third of whom are black — almost everyone was impacted by Harvey, and the city had a high poverty rate. It received $4.1 million in the same set of federal funds, to be distributed among 50,000 affected people.

The report placed the blame on the way the state and local commissions distribute federal housing funds.

Texas received more than $5 billion ($157 million to Southeast Texas) in Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds to pay for buyouts and acquisitions of homes destroyed by the storm and conduct storm mitigation projects to help communities prepare for the next storm, according to City Lab. But a state land management agency called the General Land Office distributes the funds to local governments and two dozen regional boards called Councils of Governments decides how those funds are distributed.

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According to the report, state policies distribute the funds, which requires minimum disbursements for buying out properties at $1 million, a formula that provides too much aid small towns and too little to large cities. It did not factor in where the most people live and where the greatest needs are.