HUD Secretary Ben Carson visits Texas, says there is more to learn in disaster recovery

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BEAUMONT — Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson was in Southeast Texas on Friday to visit three damaged housing developments in Port Arthur, and tour the water treatment plant in Beaumont.

Carson told reporters he was thankful for the rapid response to Harvey by local leaders and the involvement with state and federal authorities.

“It’s working,” Carson said. “Are there things to be improved, things to be learned? Of course there are. And we’re constantly in that mode. But this is working very well.”Carson toured the Bellbrook Estates, Park Central and Lakeview Palms housing developments with Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush.

Texas lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Thursday requested “that HUD allocate the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds intended for Harvey immediately, lower certain statutory income requirements, give grantees maximum flexibility when funds are dispersed, and shorten the public comment period,” according to a news release issued by Sen. Ted Cruz’s office.

The request is to ensure the state and local governments receive aid as quickly as possible, according to a letter lawmakers sent to Carson.

“I’m all for (cutting the red tape),” Carson said. “Recognizing that the reason there’s so much red tape is because you don’t always have good people that you can count on. Things that happened after certain disasters in other places have resulted in a proliferation of safeguards. We have to have the ability to wade things in appropriate ways.

“What we have to remember is if we can get people back to work again, they become part of the economy. They become part of the contributors rather than part of what has to be supported. That’s going to get us all moving in the right direction much faster.” 

The housing complexes were largely built on funding after Hurricane Ike in 2008, Carson said.

It shows the ability to take public funding, combine in it with private interest and create viable, nourishing neighborhoods.

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