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Texas Rep. Gene Green Outlines Relief Plan For Harvey Victims


That storm Harvey is still dumping rain over parts of Texas and Louisiana. And now Houston is starting to work on recovery. The city council there today approved $20 million of emergency funds. It will need much more than that, especially from Washington, to get back on its feet.

To talk about this, we are joined by Congressman Gene Green, a Democrat from the Houston area. Welcome to the program.

GENE GREEN: Thank you.

MCEVERS: First I just want to talk about your district in East Houston right now. What do people there need the most?

GREEN: Well, right now the water is going down. And I just got a text from a constituent who had 5 feet of water in his house. So that's probably the - what we're normally seeing. And now that the water goes down, although what we've also - seeing is some tragedies because people drove their cars into low-lying areas. And we're finding, you know, people who just drowned in their cars, so - but we did the rescue. We had thousands of people in shelters. And now the goal is to, once it dries - it drains, we get out and see how we can rebuild their houses and their businesses.

MCEVERS: Houston is a big oil and gas town of course. And your district is home to some refineries. How did they do in the storm? Are you concerned about any environmental damage from it?

GREEN: Well, there were some releases because you don't shut down a refinery or plant very quickly. And so there were some releases that I know the state air quality agencies are talking about. But the concern is that you don't start them up very quickly either.

And so there's some concerns about gas prices because between Corpus Christi and the Mississippi River, there's a huge amount of refining capacity that makes gasoline and diesel for the whole country. So you know, there - we may see some gas at the pump spikes, but I hope not because I don't want to price out folks out of the market when they're actually just trying to get out of the water.

MCEVERS: Right. Houston mayor Sylvester Turner said he expected the city's recovery to cost more than $70 million. He wants money from the federal government. Now he wants FEMA representatives to help people get out of shelters. Is help coming fast enough from the federal government?

GREEN: Well, you know, the hurricane just left us. And our goal is to get it quick enough. There's 3.8 - about $3.8 million left in FEMA's funding for the end of the federal year, which is the end of September. Three-point-eight is something we could - they could put out the door very quickly. And but it's going to take Congress next month to pass supplemental similar what happened for Sandy in the Northeast with previous tragedies around the country. And Texas is not alone in having - we've had hurricanes and tropical storms, and we're just located where that happens. So it's going to happen.

And I support other states that have had these kind of tragedies. I think we're all in this together, and we need to work together to rebuild the Houston area just like we were working together to rebuild Sandy - New York, New Jersey.

MCEVERS: Right. How confident are you that Congress will vote to keep the funding going?

GREEN: Well, I've heard over the last few days that Speaker Ryan has said that we're going to put a supplemental emergency appropriations bill along with the debt ceiling and maybe the omnibus bill that continue resolution. So it will get a priority. And this will be a down payment. We're talking about, you know, billions of dollars.


GREEN: I would consider it similar to what Katrina had. Katrina, right now, had many more deaths, although we're still finding people who passed away during the hurricane.

MCEVERS: Right. You mentioned Sandy, and that of course was something that some people in Congress didn't want to vote for. Do you think that it will be tough in Congress at a time when the budget is up for debate? We've got about 20 seconds.

GREEN: Well, when we have tragedies, we can't fund it, we have to say, this is an emergency like a family would do it. And our country is a family, and we ought to stick together and rebuild Texas and Houston area, just like we rebuilt other parts of the country.

MCEVERS: Democratic Congressman Gene Green - his district covers North and East Houston. Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF JUN MIYAKE'S "LILLIES OF THE VALLEY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.