County gets $9.3M in first FEMA check
Dave Rogers / For The Record
Immediate cash-flow problems for Orange County should be solved after the Federal Emergency Management Administration delivered a $9.3 million payment Friday.
“I’m very happy about it, obviously,” County Judge Dean Crooks said. “We need the money.”
It was the first FEMA money received by the county to help after the national disaster caused by last summer’s Tropical Storm Harvey.
“This does not cover what we’ve paid so far,” Crooks noted, “but it is a very good start.
“We were in a tough situation to finish out the fiscal year.”
The funds deposited with the county represented a 90 percent reimbursement for the first $10.3 million paid by Orange County for debris removal.
The state of Texas has agreed to pay the other 10 percent and has already sent the county a check for 5 percent, $514,000.
FEMA has also promised to pay 100 percent for overtime for first responders – an amount estimated earlier this week at $1 million – and portions of other expenses, such as an estimated $20 million for road repair.
Last September, after the storm, the county put together a 2018 budget showing $48 million in normal operating expenses. Then it slipped most of its $12 million “rainy day” fund balance into the budget’s general fund as “contingency” money to be used to pay for Harvey recovery expenses.
County officials said at the time the $12 million fund balance would allow the county not to have to borrow to pay its disaster bills, as it did after earlier hurricanes.
The checks from FEMA and the state will be used to rebuild that “rainy day” fund balance.
Crooks and county commissioners had recently raised the possibility of having to take out short-term loans to pay bills, if the FEMA checks didn’t start to come soon.
“FEMA actually helped us expedite this transfer,” Crooks said Friday.
“Now we can move forward, knowing we can pay our bills.”