10/09/17 — Hurricane Matthew: One year later ---- County, state officials work for more funding for recovery

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Hurricane Matthew: One year later ---- County, state officials work for more funding for recovery

By Steve Herring
Published in News on October 9, 2017 5:50 AM

Wayne County has been awarded nearly $26 million thus far to assist with Hurricane Matthew recovery efforts.

It will not be enough, county officials have said.

Meanwhile, Rep. John Bell of Goldsboro will chair the state House Select Committee on Disaster Relief. Rep. Jimmy Dixon of Mount Olive is also on the committee.

Possible additional state funding for property buyouts, river dredging and reservoirs could be among the issues the committee will take up.

Bell said one of his questions is why the level of federal disaster funds is lacking in the state.

The committee will be updated on the Disaster Recovery Acts of 2016 and 2017 and also study the state's infrastructure and regulations as they pertain to flood relief and study a proposed recommendation to prevent future flooding in eastern North Carolina.

Public meetings will be held as well.

Earlier this month-- almost a year to the date that Hurricane Matthew struck -- the county was awarded $16.94 million over the next two years through the state Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Relief program that is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It could be eligible for up to a total of $25.4 million over the next three years.

Another $9 million was awarded to the county in August through the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Hurricane Matthew Hazard Mitigation Grant for housing elevations and property buyouts.

Wayne County applied for $35 million through FEMA.

The county applied for $35 million for 331 applications that included 24 for elevation, none of which were accepted, and 307 for acquisition of which only 85 were accepted by the state.

FEMA has not provided adequate funding to the state for the buyout and elevation program, County Manager George Wood argues.

Statewide another $200 million is needed for that program.

However, FEMA spokesman David Mace said funding to states is capped and that the agency has met its funding obligation to North Carolina.

Statewide there is only enough FEMA funding for 800 of 2,800 buyout/elevation applications, Wood said.

That is the problem, Mace said, the state accepted too many applications for the amount of funding it received.

Wood and Wayne County commissioners have worried over the past few months that FEMA's response would be that it will do nothing more where Hurricane Matthew relief is concerned.

It was with that in mind that commissioners decided to form a committee and ask for meetings with state and federal lawmakers about future disaster funding tied to Hurricane Matthew.

If there is going to be a federal buyout program, then the government should fund it, Wood has said.

The purpose of that program is to move residents out of flood plains so that the same homes or businesses are not flooded over and over.

At least 70 percent of the $16.94 million Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Relief funding will have to spent on housing for low-to-moderate-income families.

The initial $16.94 million would be budgeted over two years for:

* Infrastructure $2,858,558. This is for flood and drainage activities.

* Multi-family rental, $1.25 million.

* Neighborhood facilities, $1.1 million. This includes $700,000 for a new Seven Springs Fire Station. The county had applied for $1 million. Another $400,000 is for generators. The county had applied for $450,000.

* Housing recovery, $8,831,442. Rehabilitation costs are limited to $50,000 per unit.

* Administration, $400,000.

* Planning, $1 million.

* Economic development, $1.5 million. These activities will be administered by the state Department of Commerce.

Following the two-year period the state Division of Emergency Management will review the status of the county's program and budget to determine possible future allocation up to the $25 million total.

The county does not have staff to administer the Community Development grant program and will contract that work out.

Currently the funding is broken down into broad categories, and specific projects will be looked at once an administrator has been hired.