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As Harvey recovery continues, some feel left behind

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Posted at 5:55 PM, Aug 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-26 19:31:34-04

ROCKPORT, Texas — Two years after Hurricane Harvey made landfall, the communities of Rockport and Fulton in Aransas County are still rebuilding.

But the area is ahead of schedule, when compared to other areas that have suffered similar disasters. That was the message at a meeting of federal and state agencies Monday in Rockport.

Representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Texas General Land Office, as well as several other agencies discussed the region's recovery.

Aransas County officials say the federal government had a 10-year plan for rebuilding, but the County Judge wants it done in half the time.

“Within three years, we will be to what's the new normal,” said Burt Mills, Aransas County Judge. “We'll never be back to what it was, but we'll be back bigger and stronger than what it was.”

According to Mills. Aransas County has received more than $70 million in federal assistance, while the county hasn't spent a dime of its own money on recovery.

Meanwhile, some residents are still having trouble picking up the pieces after the storm; and they feel they've victims of a flawed system.

As recovery continues here in Rockport and Aransas County some two years after Hurricane Harvey, some of the hardest hit residents are starting to feel as if they're falling through the cracks.

Michelle Lewis lost her Calhoun County home in the storm. Since then, she and her husband have been living in a FEMA trailer at a Rockport RV park they own. But twice, Lewis has had to move out with little or no warning because the trailers became unlivable.

“There's no tar paper on the roof,” said Lewis. “When it rains, the water comes straight through the walls and back behind the wallpaper.”

A FEMA representative said that even though Harvey assistance is wrapping up, the agency tries to make sure trailers are livable before delivery.

“These aren't always brand-new mobile homes, but they are always cleaned and readied, almost as if they're new,” said Remi Barron, FEMA External Affairs.

Lewis says the federal agency offered her another trailer, but that RV also had issues.

“(It was) roach and rat infested,” said Lewis. “It's totally not been cared for or cleaned.”

After two years, Lewis is afraid she won’t get much more help because in FEMA’s eyes, she’s not making progress towards a new home.

“FEMA tells us we're not making any progress,” said Lewis. “I can't make progress, the programs that were put in place are not working for us.”

Lewis says she's trying to rebuild. She wants to sell her property in Calhoun County, but that county isn't participating in a GLO sponsored buyout of properties in the flood plain. She also can't rebuild there because the property is in a floodway making it ineligible for the GLO’s Housing Assistance Program.

“Without that property being bought out or sold, which we're trying, I can't house myself,” said Lewis.

Lewis says she's contacted her elected representatives for help, but facing eviction from this trailer, she doesn't know when or if another will be delivered.

Barron says in situations like Lewis', FEMA tries to provide a new trailer "as soon as possible". In this couple's case, that new trailer should arrive before the end of the week.