Process to divide up Hurricane Ike funding is underway. How long will it take?

EAST TEXAS (KTRE) - Hurricane Ike pounded East Texas to the tune of $59 million worth of damage and expense.   "There is significant amount of money and there was a significant amount of damage," knows Polk County Judge John Thompson. He's also the chair of the Regional Economic Development Committee with the Deep East Texas Council of Governments. It's got the task of dividing the Ike recovery funds between members.  Leaders will have to be careful not to get it confused with Rita money. "We just got through doing Rita and they're still involved in a lot of recovery from Rita and the majority of Rita funding has yet to be expended," said Walter Diggles, DETCOG director.  "Hurricanes are really changing our lives a lot in East Texas."

Lots of hard work was put in during both hurricanes. Anger still lurks over how the reimbursement process was handled the first time. The big question is can it happen again.   "Borders on being criminal how long it took," is Thompson's reaction.  "The money came from the feds to the state in short order. And in my opinion, they got hijacked a the state level and took forever to get 'em down to the local entity and we've got to avoid that at all cost, if we can."

The Office of Rural Community Affairs in Austin is allocating the Hurricane Ike funds.  Directives are coming from the agency. A complete plan has to be submitted by February 17, but according to those following the process the guidelines are broad in nature.  This draws some concern.     "The good thing about it is there's going to be enough money to do some very positive things in the region," said Diggles.

The storms are similar. So is the damage. What will hopefully be different is the money will arrive soon so East Texas can start rebuilding and reimbursing.