Story by Angelo Vargas, KRGV-TV, Channel 5 News (www.krgv.com)
*Note – The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs provides Community Services Block Grants (“CSBG”) to eligible entities for the delivery of services to very low income Texas residents in all 254 counties. The Hildago County Community Service Agency is a 2017 CSBG Subrecipient.
GRANJENO – A new disaster-ready unit is in the Rio Grande Valley. The Hidalgo County Community Service Agency (“CSA”) helps families with utility assistance. Now, the agency is on standby to help Hurricane Harvey families. CSA officials activated their special response unit when Hurricane Harvey hit the coastal areas. CSA Executive Director Jaime Longoria explained they created this due to a local storm. In 2016, straight line winds between 85 to 105 miles per hour left the city of Granjeno in pieces. A year after the storm, the damages can still be seen in the community. As the city rebuilds, the winds left homeowner Jennifer Alvarez worried for the next disaster. “Every time we hear, ‘Oh my God, there’s a storm coming!’ we’re always scared of course because of what happened,” Alvarez said. Alvarez’s inoperable red car sits in her driveway. Her home also shifted off its cinderblocks during the storm. “That’s back together,” Alvarez said. “This time they put little hooks or something on it. That way it will be a little bit more firm and connected to the blocks. So we did a little bit extra this time to hopefully not have that happen again.”
The CSA Operations Manager Guillermo Palacios said the agency used the storm as a learning lesson. “In the wake of Granjeno and that disaster, we thought it would be best to create a mobile station – basically a special response unit,” Palacios said. Palacios added they repaired their trailer and added items needed for disaster relief. “What we have is two operational tents like this as well; two generators, two mobile stations fully operational to laptops and mobile hotspots,” Palacios said. If we don’t have internet, we can still get services.” Palacios says the units are on standby to help their sister agencies impacted by Hurricane Harvey. “To respond to that and service the people and process them quickly to give them services, whether it may be setting up in hotels or any kind of service – it may be they lost their essentials, and we can help with that as well,” Palacios said. Palacios adds they are ready to go at a moment’s notice. Alvarez expressed she’s grateful they’re ready. “Especially with the people not having money or not having clothing,” Alvarez said. It’s definitely something good for the communities – not only here in Granjeno, but all over the Valley.” Alvarez will stay ready and be prepared for if another disaster hits the Valley.
Longoria tells Channel 5 News, if the agency deploys the funds to send their members to a disaster zone, it will come from taxpayer dollars. This includes their salaries and travel expenses. Longoria points out the money will be reimbursed to help the services in the community. “We would gather all of that information, much like our sister departments do in responding to an emergency,” Longoria said. “We would gather all of that financial data and we would put it together for a request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) for reimbursement.” However, some of the equipment from the mobile unit is already paid for.
*The funds to CSBG eligible entities are non-competitive. Eligible entities are designated by the Governor to provide a broad range of services designed to eliminate poverty and foster self-sufficiency and must provide these services in a geographic area not served by another eligible entity.