Disaster Discrimination in Texas

Financial Justice Housing Ideas and Issues Texas

May 11, 2022

            New Orleans     Thomas Frank wrote a book some years ago entitled “What’s the Matter with Kansas?”  It was a good question.  These days someone would almost have to write a multi-volume book on “What’s the Matter with Texas?”  On top of every other bit of mess and mischief coming largely from the governor’s office, now we have to come to grips with the state’s blatant discrimination when it comes to assisting its own citizens to recover from disasters.  I have to wonder, how low is the state under Governor Abbott willing to go?  It seems we haven’t hit bottom yet.

The story behind my concern is HUD’s finding that the state of Texas diverted emergency relief money into small towns and rural areas that were received to offset situations like the destruction Hurricane Harvey brought to Houston.  HUD found that almost none of the billions of dollars in funds went to Black and Hispanic neighborhoods in urban areas.  Texas state officials are claiming foul, but they lack credibility given the governor’s record.  Black and Hispanic urban neighborhoods are not Abbott and the Republicans’ base, so they seem to have funneled the money to where they might get votes, rather than the areas where the need was the greatest or, by the regulations, where it should have been spent.

Worse, even though HUD has proven the discrimination, that doesn’t stop the rip-off.  As the Washington Post reports:

The situation in Texas illustrates the challenge facing the Biden administration, which has pledged to focus on racial equity but is struggling to protect low-income communities of color from the growing threat of climate change. Even after HUD’s finding of discrimination, the agency said it does not have the power at this time to suspend the rest of the $4.3 billion in disaster mitigation money awarded to the state under criteria approved by the Trump administration.

“What is happening here with these federal dollars going through the state and not one dime coming to the City of Houston post-Hurricane Harvey is absolutely crazy, and it cannot be justified,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. “What do I say to the people in Kashmere Gardens when these storms keep coming, and we are not putting in the infrastructure that they desperately need to mitigate the risk of future flooding?”

Texas was the only state in the country to adopt a formula that deliberately favored small towns with white majorities and disadvantaged urban and minority areas. Rules adopted by the Trump administration opened the door for this politicized relief effort.

ACORN knows Kashmere Gardens.  For decades we had local groups and members in the area.  The Texas Organizing Project (TOP), the former Texas ACORN, likely still is servicing those members and groups.

This is another disaster hitting the same areas where there is still no relief, even after the fund diversion of $1 billion dollars.  HUD needs to stop whining and find a way to stop the disbursement of even more billions being doled out as political favors poisoned by racism.