A Texas-Sized Response to Hurricane Harvey: Update on the Rebuild Texas Fund

Rockport, Texas (credit: MSDF)

Rockport, Texas (credit: MSDF)

Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the Texas coast as a Category 4 on August 25, 2017. Eight million residents along 300 miles of coastline were affected. More than 230,000 homes were damaged, 4,000 small businesses disrupted and 1,000 school campuses affected.

Hurricane Harvey caused more than $150 billion in damage and is now considered to be among one of the most costly natural disasters in U.S. history. The scale of devastation has required an unprecedented effort in recovery.

On Sept. 1 – four days after Hurricane Harvey made landfall – Michael and Susan Dell launched the Rebuild Texas Fund in collaboration with the OneStar Foundation, and led the charge to raise $100 million to assist in recovery efforts.

Recently, Austin Community Foundation invited Neeraj Aggarwal, program director for the Rebuild Texas Fund at the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, to Austin Area Funders to provide an update on how long-term recovery plans are shaping up.

Aggarwal started off the conversation by explaining how Michael and Susan Dell had a strong personal connection to this catastrophic event. Michael Dell grew up in Houston and their family vacationed in Rockport. To them, it was personal.

Approximately $93.1 million has been raised thus far with support from 32,277 individuals, corporations and foundations, including a personal gift of $36 million from the Dell family. To date, the Rebuild Texas Fund has deployed almost $15 million across 50 projects.

The Fund is working directly with communities across the affected areas to identify priorities and needs and to provide financial support, expertise, and resources across six critical focus areas: housing, health, small business, education & childcare, workplace & transportation, and community & economic development.

Aggarwal reflected on the importance of responding to the needs as defined directly by the affected communities. He shared a recent conversation with local leaders and residents in Ingleside. He asked them what they needed most and they responded that their Little League field – one of the community’s most prized assets – was destroyed and the spring season would either be cancelled or significantly delayed.

After that conversation, Aggarwal told his colleagues at MSDF, “We have to help them build the Little League field.” In February, the Rebuild Texas Fund approved a grant to support the City of Ingleside’s efforts to build a new field and ensure it’s ready for opening day.

To learn more about the recovery efforts and how the Fund is helping our neighbors on the coast, read the Rebuild Texas Fund Progress Report released in February 2018.

Austin Area Funders is a group of charitable foundations and other funders that meet monthly to focus on our community's most pressing needs, emerging trends in the field of philanthropy and opportunities to network with foundation peers.