After a natural disaster like Hurricane Matthew, help can never come fast enough for families in need. And no single agency — or level of government — can do it alone. It takes all of us — local, state and federal governments, along with private corporations, nonprofits, volunteer organizations, and concerned neighbors — to rebuild after a disaster.
Together, we have made progress in the past 18 months to help North Carolinians recover from Hurricane Matthew. North Carolina has already spent more than $630 million on recovery efforts including:
— Nearly $100 million to help people with home repairs and to replace essential belongings.
— More than $100 million to help homeowners and business owners rebuild.
— Nearly $200 million to pay flood insurance claims.
— Nearly $12 million for crisis counseling, job funding for impacted workers, and help with disaster case management.
— More than $140 million to repair or replace critical public infrastructure.
— And $86 million to support housing needs and other programs.
We have worked to get this help out quickly and efficiently, and there is more help on the way. During the next several months, about 800 homeowners will receive federal and state funds through the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program to elevate, reconstruct or buy out their homes to avoid future storm damage. Thousands of North Carolina families have benefited from this program after previous disasters and can attest to the benefits of a more resilient home.
Additional funds are coming to low- to moderate-income families to help them repair or reconstruct their homes. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has already designated more than $236 million to help eligible applicants move into safe and secure housing through the Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery program, with more on the way. That much-needed funding came with substantial requirements: to develop a federally-approved plan to manage the new grant program, then work with counties to identify and screen potential applicants. Applications are being reviewed to comply with federal requirements to make sure paperwork is complete, claims aren’t duplicated and the work is appropriate for the environment and the community.
The first reimbursement under CDBG-DR was sent to a homeowner in late April with additional homeowners set to get reimbursements in the coming weeks, and we are on track to begin home repairs in June. Meanwhile, application centers remain open in heavily impacted Robeson, Edgecombe, Cumberland and Wayne counties, and we encourage anyone still working to recover from Hurricane Matthew to come in and apply today. I also encourage anyone who started an application to call 211 to find out the status of their application.
Because we know these homes and communities are vulnerable to future storms, we’re working to rebuild them to better withstand the next disaster. That means working with communities to build more affordable housing, including rental housing, developing customized resilient redevelopment plans for the 50 counties impacted by the storm, and identifying ways to reduce impacts of future flooding in the Tar, Lumber and Neuse river basins.
There is still more work to be done. We will continue working with families and communities to help them recover and be better prepared for the next disaster. North Carolinians deserve no less.
Mike Sprayberry is director of N.C. Emergency Management.