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Additional disaster assistance approved

by | May 29, 2024 | Opinion

Seven Texas counties have been approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for grants for emergency work and replacement of disaster-damaged public infrastructure, after severe weather and flooding struck much of Deep East Texas, Gov. Gregg Abbott’s office reported. Counties eligible for FEMA’s Public Assistance program include Harris, Liberty, Montgomery, Polk, San Jacinto, Trinity and Walker.

An additional 21 Texas counties remain on review for possible inclusion under the aid program. In addition, several counties have been approved for individual assistance funding, for expenses such as temporary housing, emergency home repairs and help with medical, dental, and funeral expenses caused by the disaster. Those include Calhoun, Eastland, Guadalupe, Hardin, Harris, Jasper, Jones, Lamar, Liberty, Montgomery, Polk, San Jacinto, Trinity, Walker and Waller counties.

Abbott also announced that the federal food program known as SNAP has approved allowing its recipients to apply for replacement benefits for food that was lost or destroyed in the recent storms.

Any Texan in need can apply for benefits at YourTexasBenefits.com.

Families of Uvalde shooting victims sue DPS officers

Relatives of children killed and injured in the deadly school shooting in Uvalde in May 2023 are suing Texas Department of Public Safety officers who were among hundreds of law enforcement that waited well over an hour to confront the gunman at Robb Elementary. The Texas Tribune reported the legal action was taken against 92 DPS officers just days before the two-year anniversary of the shooting.

“Nearly 100 officers from the Texas Department of Public Safety have yet to face a shred of accountability for cowering in fear while my daughter and nephew bled to death in their classroom,” Veronica Luevanos, whose daughter Jailah and nephew Jayce were killed, said in a statement to The Tribune.

In addition, the city of Uvalde has agreed to pay those families $2 million to avoid a lawsuit.

Texas ranchers push for balloon release ban

A Central Texas ranching family is pushing for a statewide ban on balloon releases after a string of balloons landed in a deer pen, spooking three young deer to thrash against the fence, The Dallas Morning News reported. The owners of 4 Generations Ranch in Crawford posted photographs of deer with cuts on their faces and bodies, and a now-deflated string of pink, blue, orange, and black balloons.

“Balloons don’t go to heaven,” David Meyer told The News on Wednesday. “What goes up must come down.”

At least five states have banned or restricted balloon releases, but efforts to do so in Texas have fallen short.

$17 million grant for rural hospitals

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission will award $17 million in grants for rural hospitals over the next two years.

“I thank Governor Abbott and state lawmakers for this important funding,” said Texas Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Cecile Erwin Young. “Rural hospitals are a critical part of the healthcare system in Texas, and HHSC is proud to facilitate initiatives like this to support Texans and our rural communities.”

The grant will provide qualifying hospitals $100,000 to $375,00 in grants over a two-year period. The money can be used to supplement operational expenses, repay debt, make facility repairs and buy or rent equipment.

Support for legalizing cannabis hits all-time high

Nearly three-fourths of Texas adults recently surveyed support either full legalization of decriminalization of cannabis, according to the San Antonio Express-News. The Texas Lyceum Association survey indicates the state’s shift mirrors a similar national trend toward weed.

“Texas’ evolving attitude speaks to a nationwide shift in favor of decriminalizing and legalizing cannabis,” Ty Schepis, a Texas State University professor of clinical psychology with a specialization in substance use, said. 

An analysis by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed that from 1979 through 2022, self-reported daily cannabis use surpassed daily alcohol consumption in the United States.

Federal forecasters predict record storm number

Wind changes caused by the prevalent La Niña weather pattern, along with warmer-than-average ocean temperatures are predicted by federal forecasters to result in an active hurricane season, which officially begins on June 1 and runs through Nov. 30.

Forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are predicting between 17 and 25 named storms this season, — the highest ever predicted.

NOAA defines an average Atlantic hurricane season as one with 14 named storms.

NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad told The Tribune that the “extraordinarily high, record-warm water temperatures” in the Atlantic are energizing the ocean, which can fuel storm development.

The Texas coast is particularly vulnerable to storm impact. Ken Graham, NOAA’s weather service director, said possibly affected residents should plan an evacuation route, have a disaster supply kit on hand, and consider purchasing home and flood insurance. 

“You can’t wait ‘til the storm surfaces because you may not have the time,” he said. “Then you’re competing to get water. You’re getting in the long lines for evacuations, the traffic. So, the earlier you can prepare the better.”

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