Hurricane Matthew survivors that still need help urged to apply today
North Carolina is on track to send the first homeowner reimbursement checks to Hurricane Matthew survivors beginning next month, state emergency management officials said Monday. Emergency Management officials briefed legislators this afternoon on program spending and other updates related to Hurricane Matthew recovery.
The funds are part of the ReBuild NC program, made possible by North Carolina’s allocation of Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
“We’re continuing to push to get assistance to the families, businesses and communities working to recover while making sure taxpayer dollars are being used effectively,” said Mike Sprayberry, state emergency management director. “North Carolina is currently on target to begin sending the first homeowner reimbursement checks in May, and we’re glad to learn just this week that HUD has awarded North Carolina more of these funds.”
Funds are available to help qualified low- and moderate-income families and individuals with Hurricane Matthew housing recovery. North Carolina partnered with local communities to open application centers where Matthew survivors can apply for these funds starting last November.
Hurricane Matthew Housing Application Centers are currently open in Cumberland, Edgecombe, Robeson and Wayne counties, the four communities hit hardest by the storm. Applicants in any of the 22 counties designated for CBDG-DR funding can call 2-1-1 to schedule an appointment at one of the centers to begin the application process.
Applications for the funds go through a detailed process requiring multiple checks for eligibility, duplication of benefit, environmental reviews, and more. Staff are working with applicants to ensure applications are completed quickly.
In addition to the original approximately $237 million in CDBG-DR funds designated for North Carolina, an additional $168 million in CDBG-DR funds was announced earlier this week and will come to North Carolina following the next federal register.
Historically, North Carolina’s CBDG-DR program was handled by the NC Department of Commerce. In December 2016, state legislators designated NC Emergency Management to manage the program and recent cuts to Commerce eliminated the section that previously did this type of work, requiring NCEM to build the program from the ground up.
CDBG-DR funding is just one part of the work underway to help North Carolina rebuild from Hurricane Matthew, state emergency management officials point out.
“Our goal is rebuilding stronger and better so North Carolina will be more resilient in the face of future disasters,” Sprayberry said. “We’re working with federal, state and local leaders to cut through red tape and get help to those who need it most.”
FEMA Administrator Brock Long will meet with Sprayberry and others Tuesday morning to announce and implement the nation’s first FEMA Integration Team designed to enhance the efficiency of program delivery.
Among the other efforts already happening to help families, businesses and communities recover from the storm:
1. Helping families, businesses and communities recover. More than $550 million in FEMA funding already has been provided to North Carolina so far, including nearly $100 million to approximately 26,000 families in need and $250 million to public infrastructure repair projects. More than 2,600 SBA home and business loans have been approved for a total of over $100 million. Already, funding has been obligated for 95 percent of all the anticipated public assistance projects identified by local governments (including things like debris removal, emergency protective measures, and repairs to community facilities).
2. Assisting families as they rebuild. As of this morning, 37 families remained in FEMA mobile home units as they work to repair their homes, down from peak of 161. State officials expect most of the families will be in their permanent homes by the end of April, but about a dozen families will likely need additional help. Reasons for home repair delays vary widely from a shortage of volunteer labor, to homeowners who miscalculated timeframes to complete repairs, to families who underestimated repair costs and are now seeking volunteers to help to complete the work.
3. Developing Affordable Housing. NCEM is working with local communities and counties, along with the NC Community Development Initiative and the NC Development Finance Initiative, to increase affordable housing in areas hardest hit by Hurricane Matthew. One of the toughest challenges to recovering from Hurricane Matthew has been the lack of affordable housing stock in many eastern North Carolina communities—a problem that existed long before the storm struck and that smart rebuilding efforts can help solve for the future.
4. Helping communities become more resilient to better weather future disasters. North Carolina is one of just 12 FEMA enhanced mitigation states in the country, a designation given to states with an outstanding system in place to handle mitigation projects that can reduce losses in future disasters. Following Hurricane Matthew, this enhanced mitigation plan allowed North Carolina to receive an additional $25 million in Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funding to help an additional 200 at-risk homes through buyouts, elevations, and home reconstructions.
Through North Carolina’s leadership and enhanced mitigation status, we saved 6-8 months in the typical HMGP process following a major disaster. We have already sent addresses for available funding to FEMA for approval, and expect the funds to be released soon.
NCEM continues working with the particularly hard-hit communities of Lumberton, Fair Bluff, Windsor, Seven Springs, Princeville & Kinston to improve their ability to withstand and recover from future disasters. That work includes land suitability analyses, and for some communities, flood retrofit studies and detailed recovery plans.
To better understand and prepare for river flooding, state emergency management, transportation, and environment officials are working with NCSU, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and local governments to conduct flood mitigation studies of the Neuse, Tar, Lumber and Cashie river basins. Information from the studies will tell us more about the sources and severity of flooding, inform plans and strategies for surrounding communities heavily impacted by floods, and help the Corps and other federal partners to implement basin-specific mitigation measures to minimize future impacts. Study results are expected later this spring.