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Texas GLO accused of discriminating against communities of color with post-Harvey relief funds

Port Arthur Mayor Thurman Bartie says the city was initially granted post-Harvey federal relief money through the GLO, but he said the money quickly ran out.

PORT ARTHUR, Texas — The US Department of Housing and Urban Development is accusing the Texas General Land Office of allegedly discriminating against communities of color when choosing who gets that relief money.

In a letter detailing HUD's probe results, they found that the GLO is in violation of the Civil Rights Act as well as Federal Housing Law.

In a statement to 12news, Naomi Yoder, a staff scientist at Healthy Gulf in Houston said in part, “Low income and people of color, especially Black community members, were systematically discriminated against in communities such as Port Arthur, Beaumont, Houston, and Corpus Christi'.

In January, federal funding for Hurricane Harvey assistance was halted.

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According to HUD, the GLO did not submit the proper paperwork.

A spokesperson for the land commissioner disagreed, saying the office submitted more than 600 pages to receive nearly $2 billion for flood mitigation projects.

Port Arthur Mayor Thurman Bartie said the city was initially granted post-Harvey federal relief money through the GLO, but he said the money quickly ran out.

Bartie said large sums of the federal relief money handed down through the GLO following Harvey went to areas that didn't need it as much.

"It went to counties...more inland counties that had not been affected adversely the way, Jefferson County and even Harris County and Chambers and some of these other counties that sit right on the waterway," Bartie said.

As a result, Bartie said some Port Arthur residents are still dealing with headaches stemming from Harvey.

"There are still are homes in Port Arthur that have been in disrepair since Harvey," Bartie said.

Bartie said some people who qualified for the post-Harvey relief money never got a dime from the GLO.

"A great amount of those funds went to some inland areas in our state that did not probably meet the criteria of the socio-economically deprived," Bartie said.

Doris Brown with Northeast Action Collective said Black and brown communities in areas around Houston, as well as Beaumont, Port Arthur, and Corpus Christi were intentionally discriminated against.

"It caused the applicants that would disproportionately benefit minority residents to receive fewer points. That criteria is racist," Brown said.

We reached out to the Texas General Land Office for comment on HUD's investigation into their distribution of flood mitigation funds. We have not heard back.

Brown did not hold back when talking about the GLO's allocation of the funds, which she said intentionally adversely affected minority communities.

"Sometimes people just get sick and tired of being sick and tired,” Brown said. “And we were sick and tired of being treated like second-class citizens. I mean, if it's supposed to be equitable, let it be equitable."

Bartie said many homes in Port Arthur still have blue tarps on their roof from Harvey. It’s a sign he said indicates the area hasn't received the necessary money to recover.

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