I was in Houston mucking out homes with a group of military veteran volunteers, when I got a call from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. The governor said he was tapping me and my agency, the Texas General Land Office, to partner with the Federal Emergency Management Agency on the short-term disaster housing mission. Traditionally, FEMA had sole responsibility for temporarily housing displaced residents, but the scale of this disaster was enormous. In addition to the deadly storms, wildfires burned more than half-a-million acres of California in 2017. With available federal recovery resources stretched extremely thin, this operation called for more direct oversight at the state level and we were eager to serve. For the first time in history, a state agency would partner with FEMA in carrying out a disaster housing mission. Over the next two years, my state agency and FEMA would help more than 60,000 Texans return home after the storm through assistance programs that provided both temporary housing units and repairs.
As I tackled this new mission, I quickly encountered two problems that impeded the short-term recovery process.
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