RALEIGH — The Federal Emergency Management Agency has frozen funds from its Public Assistance and Hazard Mitigation grant programs that are earmarked for counties and municipalities in North Carolina that were affected by Hurricane Matthew, including Robeson County..
About $134.5 million in funding eligible through the Public Assistance program for the state’s long-term recovery from Matthew is suspended until further notice from FEMA. The decision to freeze the money was made in order to address the immediate needs of the victims of hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
The freeze should be temporary, according to U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, a Republican from Charlotte whose 9th Congressional District includes Robeson County.
“Following major disasters, FEMA protocol freezes assets to ensure they have enough cash on hand to meet urgent needs. Congress will provide additional funding for Irma, and long-term FEMA funding for North Carolina is assured,” Pittenger said Friday in a statement. “Next week, I’m meeting with both FEMA and OMB (Office of Management and Budget) to discuss North Carolina’s ongoing needs following Hurricane Matthew.”
FEMA’s Public Assistance Program provides aid to state and local governments, and to certain nonprofits, to help communities in their recovery efforts. Hazard Mitigation grants provide funds for state and local governments to implement long-term mitigation measures.
The freeze will affect about 36 homes and properties in the county that were to be addressed through the Hazards Mitigation Grant program, said Ricky Harris, Robeson County’s manager.
“We have been told by state officials to continue the process of planning to rebuild those houses,” Harris said Friday. “Hopes are that the freeze will just be temporary.”
The freeze will have a more significant effect when it comes to the money the county is supposed to receive through FEMA’s Public Assistance Grant program, Harris said. Funds are supposed to be coming to the county for the repair of roofs on four county-owned buildings and a small project to repair some water lines.
“The water project is almost complete, so there won’t be much of a problem caused by the freeze,” Harris said. “But there could be a problem with the roofing project that’s just getting started. The cost of the four roofs is more than $800,000.”
Harris said the roofing project includes the former BB&T building on Chestnut Street in Lumberton, the county courthouse, the county administration building on North Elm Street in Lumberton, and the county maintenance garage.
Lumberton Mayor Bruce Davis said he does not believe the freeze will have any major impact on local projects being funded under either of the grant programs.
“I have spoken with Congressman Pittenger and he has assured me that this is a temporary action and the freeze won’t last long,” Davis said.
Lumberton City Manager Wayne Horne said the state has told him to continue processing Hazard Mitigation grant paperwork. Out of 400 applications for Hazard Mitigation, which includes buyout, elevation and demolition rebuild projects, 100 are being funded through FEMA. Funds for these 100 projects are temporarily frozen.
The other 300 applications are going to be funded through HUD’s Community Block Grant program, Horne said. The grant program money has not been frozen.
The freeze also will affect funding for all of the city’s Public Works projects, he said.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.