Rural Texas communities face long recoveries and stretched budgets without federal aid

Marfa is covered with snow a second time. Another snowstorm came in early Thursday morning, the day after the power was restored in town. The temperature dropped to 7 degrees on Friday morning. Feb. 18, 2021.

Over half of Texas’ 254 counties were left out of a federal disaster declaration, making them ineligible to receive federal relief funds.

Credit: Sarah M. Vasquez for The Texas Tribune

(Audio unavailable. Click here to listen on texastribune.org.)

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For 33 years, Debbie Gosnell has served as the city manager of Cross Plains, which is 44 miles southeast of Abilene. She’s helped the Callahan County town of around 1,000 residents through tornados and a fire that she said nearly destroyed the town in 2005. Now she’s helping the town recover after a historic freeze that affected every corner of the state.

All 254 Texas counties have received state disaster declarations by Gov. Greg Abbott, opening them up to additional state assistance. But more than half, including Callahan, have not been approved for federal aid by the White House.

With the budget for only three full-time maintenance workers, Cross Plains’ damaged and leaking water pipes might take months to completely fix. Gosnell said the city needs the emergency funds to save the city’s budget, make necessary repairs, and purchase emergency generators in case of similar freeze in the future.

Listen to Gosnell talk about what her town is dealing with in the weekend edition of The Brief podcast.

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