By Jack Fink

DALLAS (CBS11) – Dallas City Councilman Kevin Felder raised questions Wednesday about whether the city is using enough African-American and minority-owned businesses as suppliers for the four shelters opened for Hurricane Harvey evacuees.

Felder made his request to city CFO Elizabeth Reich during an emergency vote by the council to use up to $8 million in reserve funds to pay for Harvey-related expenses.

The state and federal governments will fully reimburse the city.

Reich explained to Felder, “We’d be happy to provide documentation at a point when operations slow down.”

Felder replied, “I don’t want to see it after the Hurricane efforts are over. I’d like to see it as soon as possible. Sooner rather than later because I want to make sure that this is an inclusive process.”

Reich said, “To the extent we can provide that, we will.”

Felder responded, “Just the process. How are you going about doing this, getting the message out, making sure its an inclusive process.”

Reich replied, “I will see about staff I can pull from the emergency operations center to brief you.”

Felder said, “Ok, I want something in writing.”

After the meeting, Reich told CBS11 it’s all hands on deck right now, and that she wouldn’t pull anyone away from the emergency operations center.

Both Reich and Mayor Mike Rawlings said the city relies on its contracted suppliers, who are very diverse, but that during emergencies, the process can change because the city’s rules regarding minority-owned businesses are suspended.

Rawlings said, “We’re making these decisions on the run, and so there is not a traditional RFP process where you get three bids in a matter of hours. You’ve got to say who’s got cots, let’s bring them in, who’s got toilet paper, let’s bring them in.”

Both Rawlings and Reich said the city is committed to using minority-owned businesses, and that won’t change.

The city said as of Wednesday morning, about 860 Harvey evacuees are staying in the city’s four shelters, including 250 at the mega-shelter opened in the garage level of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in downtown.

As many as 5,000 people can stay at the mega-shelter.

While the state has asked the city to be prepared to take-in thousands of more evacuees, Mayor Rawlings said Wednesday because the city of Houston has done a good job of opening more shelters, the city may not see many more people come here. “There’s not a mass evacuation planned for the city of Houston at this point. We think that convention center is going to be able to handle everybody we’re going to get at this point.”

The city says the North Texas region can accommodate 6,100 Harvey evacuees.

There are more than 1,000 here in the region now, not only in Dallas, but Fort Worth and Irving as well.

On Wednesday, Governor Greg Abbott added Dallas and Tarrant Counties to the Presidential Disaster Declaration because they are providing shelters.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins tweeted that FEMA accepted the request immediately.

Mayor Rawlings said, “That’s the work the Governor’s office said he would do for us, and we appreciate that.”

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