LUMBERTON — Robeson County’s efforts to recover from Hurricane Matthew got a boost Thursday with the announcement that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is giving North Carolina about $32 million for that effort.
Robeson will be among the counties at the head of the line to receive the money.
According to a statement from U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, whose 9th Congressional District includes all of Robeson County, the money is in addition to more than $1 billion that already has been made available for state hurricane recovery efforts from HUD, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and previous congressional appropriations.
The need for the $31,862,000 for Community Development Block Grants was discussed by Pittenger and Ben Carson, HUD secretary. Pittenger said in the statement he also worked with HUD staff to ensure the most current data was used in calculating North Carolina’s needs.
Under the terms of the grant, 80 percent of the money must be distributed to the “most impacted counties” — Robeson, Cumberland, Wayne and Edgecombe.
Jamie Bowers, Pittenger’s communications director, said earlier this month that federal money appropriated to North Carolina for Hurricane Matthew recovery will eventually reach the N.C. Division of Emergency Management for distribution.
In late spring, Gov. Roy Cooper caused “unnecessary confusion” when he announced North Carolina had received only $6.1 million in federal money to fund hurricane recovery efforts, according to Pittenger.
“As we explained, that was a preliminary calculation based on outdated data, and we chose to stay focused on getting results,” he said. “For the past several months, my team has worked with HUD to ensure that the most up-to-date information was used for the final calculation, which resulted in five times more money for North Carolina. This is an issue I’ve been engaged with since Interstate 95 was still under water, and we will see it through.”
Bowers said that Pittenger expects that more federal hurricane recovery money will soon be coming to North Carolina. This includes $200 million in FEMA Public Assistance and $75 million in Hazard Mitigation Grants; and an additional $200 million in Community Development Block Grants which Pittenger helped secure in December. The Community Development Block Grant money will be available as soon as Cooper receives approval for his State Action Plan.
Working with Pittenger to obtain additional hurricane recovery funds has been U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis and members of the North Carolina Congressional delegation. In addition, Pittenger has said that U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, the House Appropriations Committee chairman, has given his personal assurance that more hurricane relief money will be available to North Carolina in the 2018 fiscal year Appropriations Bill.
County residents needing help from FEMA, HUD. U.S. Department of Agriculture, or any other federal agency, should contact Pittenger’s office in Fayetteville at 910-303-0669.
Matthew hit Robeson County on Oct. 8 as a Category 1 hurricane and caused record flooding in the days that followed. Hardest hit in Robeson County were the South Lumberton and West Lumberton areas.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.