We audited the Harris County Hurricane Harvey Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program. We initiated this audit as part of our commitment to helping the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) address its top management challenges and to support HUD’s strategic objective to support effectiveness and accountability in long-term disaster recovery. Further, Congress has expressed strong interest in HUD’s disaster programs.
Our objective was to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of Harris County’s Hurricane Harvey CDBG-DR program and whether the program was assisting disaster participants in a timely manner; specifically, to examine the status of its HUD-approved activities and challenges, if any, in implementing the activities.
We found that Harris County had not efficiently or effectively operated its Hurricane Harvey CDBG-DR program. Specifically, 3 years after Hurricane Harvey, Harris County had assisted only 112 of 4,513 planned program participants and had spent less than 1 percent of its grant funds. Harris County’s challenges included an inability to effectively assist applicants and inefficiencies in its reimbursement program. These conditions occurred because Harris County was overwhelmed by the number of programs it intended to operate and its staff did not respond effectively to Texas General Land Office (Texas GLO) guidance and training. As a result, the Texas GLO reduced the number of Harris County’s programs and assumed control of $338.7 million (27 percent) of its $1.2 billion Hurricane Harvey grant suballocation.
We recommend that the Director of the Office of Block Grant Assistance require the Texas GLO to (1) provide its plan to continuously monitor Harris County’s pace and performance in its remaining program and take appropriate action to ensure that program goals are met; (2) set performance and financial milestones for all programs and activities funded under Harris County’s subrecipient agreement; (3) monitor Harris County’s capacity to manage its funds and address duplicative, inefficient, and cost-prohibitive processes or positions; and, (4) review Harris County’s priorities for providing assistance to program participants. Implementation of these recommendations would include determining whether additional activities need to be combined or eliminated and repurposing additional grant funds if necessary.