City of Houston Federal Update

Executive & Legislative Advocacy

HELP Act GraphicLegislative Advocacy - Help Act

H.R. 1917

In the past 8 years, the City of Houston has experienced 7 federally declared disasters. Disaster recovery is a critically important policy for Houston and it will be made better by passage of the Hazard Eligibility and Local Projects (HELP) Act, H.R. 1917.

The purpose of the HELP Act is simple: making the recovery process faster and more efficient. The faster that local governments are able to begin mitigation projects, the more federal resources can be leveraged - and the more people they can help.

Before the HELP Act, local and state agencies applying for federal funds to begin recovery projects must wait until they receive approval from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) before purchasing land or starting construction on a project.

This is means that common sense land purchases without approval disqualifies the project from receiving federal assistance.

The HELP Act will allow certain disaster mitigation projects to begin without the risk of losing potential federal funds.

To give you a real-world example of how this change will speed mitigation efforts, look to the largest Hazard Mitigation Grant Program project in the state of Texas: the North Canal Project.

The North Canal project will reduce the risk of flooding downtown and reduce flood damage to upstream areas along White Oak and Buffalo Bayous.

The North Canal is at the confluence of White Oak and Buffalo Bayous, with the South overflow channel downstream. The channel improvements provide conveyance capacity to areas along White Oak Bayou, including I-10 west of Downtown Houston.

The project requires land swaps between multiple governmental agencies and acquisition of downstream flowage easements across numerous private properties. Prior to passage of the HELP Act, acquisition of property and easements was not reimbursable if acquired prior to federal approval for construction.

With this change in federal law, the City is now able to timely acquire properties with assurance of reimbursement from the Federal government and significantly reduce the project schedule and completion.

The HELP Act is the first original bill Congresswoman Fletcher filed as a Member of Congress. After passing the House of Representatives in the 116th Congress, it was passed into law and signed by President Joe Biden on January 5, 2023.

Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher