U.S. Reps. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, and Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, expressed criticism of the Trump administration not prioritizing the Rio Grande Valley for disaster recovery assistance in a joint statement Friday. The statement comes in light of the June 2018 flood, which despite causing millions in damage in the Valley, has been denied Federal Emergency Management Agency aid.
An assessment by FEMA found Hidalgo, Cameron and Jim Wells counties sustained $18 million in damages to government- owned property, according to FEMA external affairs officer Bettina Hutchings. The region needed to have suffered about $36.7 million in damages to public property to qualify for grant money. City leaders have requested that FEMA redo its damage assessment to account for all public property damaged by flooding in the three counties.
“My constituents suffered devastating floods and this administration conveniently reinterpreted the rules to deny public assistance,” Vela stated.
In the statement, Gonzalez suggests the president is prioritizing funding in places he finds politically convenient.
“It’s unfortunate that President Trump only finds ways to fund disaster recovery when it benefits his supporters and reelection campaign,” Gonzalez said in the statement. Meanwhile, though it’s been almost a year since the flood,residentsoftheValley are still working toward repairing the damage it had on their property, with McAllen and Weslaco embarking on multi-million dollar drainage improvement projects.
In addition to damages sustained in the McAllen, Edinburg and Mission areas, some 16-18 inches of rain inundated the Weslaco and Mercedes region. More than 2,500 homes were flooded, over 100 businesses were damaged and at least 2,500 vehicles were damaged, according to NWS data.
“These people need our help; they were counting on us and the administration has failed them,” Cuellar stated.