When Hurricane Matthew unleashed devastating rains upon Southeastern North Carolina in October 2016, my heart ached for the friends and family members of the 28 people who lost their lives, along with the thousands of North Carolinians who lost their homes.
As governor I personally visited the communities impacted by the storm where I saw the devastation first-hand. I listened to survivors tell their stories and promised that the state would provide assistance to help those affected get back on their feet.
I also promised those communities that we wouldn’t forget them — long after the flood waters had receded and news reporters had moved on to the next story.
After the storm, we worked quickly to develop the initial state aid package, which included funds for the Golden LEAF Foundation to assist storm survivors, small businesses and local governments struggling with costs of repair and restoration. We also launched an effort to raise additional recovery money from the private sector and coordinated with our congressional delegation, FEMA and the Obama administration to secure additional hurricane relief.
So I was encouraged when Gov. Roy Cooper spoke to storm victims in April 2017 and promised that “help is on the way.”
Unfortunately, Gov. Cooper is breaking the promises made to communities devastated by this storm. Despite having received $236 million in federal housing relief over seven months ago, the Cooper administration has yet to spend a single dollar of the money, which was intended to help repair or build homes for families impacted by the storm.
By comparison, South Carolina, which received its funding at the exact same time, has already built or repaired more than 50 homes with plans to complete work on roughly 500 homes by the end of the year.
With the Cooper administration’s inaction, the Golden LEAF Foundation has been a saving grace for many communities devastated by the hurricane. Golden LEAF has quickly and responsibly allocated $55 million to help storm ravaged communities in Eastern North Carolina recover as quickly as possible.
In the last few days, the governor’s staff has looked to blame federal ‘red tape’ or push the issue down the chain of command to departmental officials. But at the end of the day, the victims are our citizens impacted by the hurricane — not the government agencies under Cooper’s authority.
Simply put, Gov. Cooper should make providing disaster relief a true priority.
Make no mistake: This is not a partisan issue. For me, providing storm relief is personal. It is the responsibility of any governor, regardless of political party or affiliation, to help those in need.
We cannot forget the communities affected most by the storm. Places like Princeville, Fair Bluff, Kinston, Lumberton, Greenville, Windsor, Fayetteville and Clinton have not fully recovered 18 months later.
Even though I’m no longer serving as governor of this great state, I remain just as committed to the promises made more than 18 months ago.
The Cooper administration might benefit from the advice of former governors who have dealt with previous natural disasters. I offer my assistance in any way.
As Princeville Mayor Bobbie Jones said after the storm, “Things will get better. We have lost material possessions … but we still have a desire to move forward and our belief and faith in God.”
I have faith in the people of North Carolina because I have seen the best of North Carolina.
Now it is time for our governor to make good on promises made so things will get better for the thousands of North Carolinians who are still displaced from their homes.
Enough is enough. We can do better.
Pat McCrory, a Republican, is the former governor of North Carolina, having served from 2012 to 2016.