Texas Health and Human Services

Commissioner Smith Tours Hurricane Harvey Damage

Executive Commissioner Charles Smith, left, with DSHS Commissioner John Hellerstedt, got a first-hand look at the devastation Hurricane Harvey wreaked on Southeast Texas and Houston with an aerial tour of flooded areas.

As Texas begins the long road back from Harvey, Executive Commissioner Charles Smith got a close look at the storm’s damage and the recovery work that’s in full swing.

Smith toured military facilities in Katy and Houston and saw the scope of flooding in Beaumont and Port Arthur during an aerial tour Sept. 3.

Military personnel gather Sept. 3 at a field hospital assembled in Southeast Texas to treat Harvey victims.

“Seeing the flooding devastation first hand is truly heartbreaking,” Smith said. “However, having the opportunity to meet and speak with the military and state task force personnel who are at the ready and working tirelessly to help Texans is about the best experience imaginable.”

Smith was recently appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott to the Governor’s Commission to Rebuild Texas and also joined the governor and other agency heads on a three-day, five-city trip to visit communities affected by Hurricane Harvey. They met with local officials and discussed how state and federal resources will help rebuild the Lone Star State.

On Sept. 7, the leaders toured Corpus Christi and Richmond, looking at the damage the storm left behind when its winds were the strongest. They also visited Victoria and Houston on Sept. 8 and Beaumont on Sept 9.  

“I’m heartened, but not surprised to see Texans throughout the storm zone already working to come back,” Smith said. “The dedication of these volunteers to their neighbors, their hometowns and to Texans they don’t know is an awesome sight to see.”

Smith is overseeing the HHS system’s efforts to help the recovery. HHS is working with federal, state and local partners, including community groups, to help with disaster assistance grants, Disaster-SNAP food benefits, waiving CHIP co-pays for those in the disaster zone and getting mental health workers to shelters.

“There’s so much work for us all to do,” Smith said. “I’m so proud of the way everyone in the system has responded. Many of our employees suffered damage themselves and many are helping friends and families.”

Helping Those Who Need Help

If you get a call or an office visit from someone who needs help recovering from Hurricane Harvey, the best thing to do is to let them know to dial 2-1-1. People with questions about HHS food benefits should dial 2-1-1 and select option 2. For storm-related services, including shelters, dial 2-1-1 and select option 5. 

HHS is working with the federal government to request a Disaster SNAP waiver that would offer short-term food benefits to eligible families recovering from the disaster when they return home. D-SNAP will only be available to people who aren’t already getting SNAP benefits and are residents of one of the counties with a federal disaster declaration.

For more information about hurricane recovery assistance, visit HHS’s public webpage. It has the latest updates, along with a catalog of benefits and tips for those affected by the storm.