Recovery

North Carolina Gets $168 Million More for Hurricane Matthew Recovery. Now How Should it Spend it?

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced Tuesday that it would provide the funds through its Community Development Block Grant.

by Martha Quillin, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) / April 11, 2018

(TNS) - The federal government will give North Carolina another $168 million to help with recovery from the devastation of Hurricane Matthew and to try to reduce damages from future storms.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced Tuesday that it would provide the funds through its Community Development Block Grant — Disaster Recover Program, which helps rebuild seriously damaged housing, businesses and critical infrastructure. The additional funds will bring the state’s total receipt of HUD funds for Hurricane Matthew recovery to $404 million.

“It’s clear that a number of states and local communities are still struggling to recover from a variety of natural disasters that occurred in the past three years,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said in a release from the agency. “These grants will help rebuild communities impacted by past disasters and will also protect them from major disasters in the future.”

Hurricane Matthew hit North Carolina in October 2016. It was blamed for 26 deaths in the state and caused billions of dollars in damages, most of those the result of massive flooding in inland counties. Many property owners who suffered losses were un- or under-insured against flooding, some of which hit areas that had been inundated by Hurricane Floyd in 1999, and some of which had never seen significant flooding before.

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Joseph J. Phillips, a HUD spokesman, said the next step will be for the state to present a plan for using the the funds.

Mike Sprayberry, director of N.C. Emergency Management, said the state likely would use the money for hazard mitigation and infrastructure projects.

North Carolina has become a national leader in hazard mitigation, which involves identifying flood-prone areas and getting residents to move out of them. Coordinating with municipal or county governments that contribute part of the cost, the state uses federal funds to purchase homes that are subject to frequent flooding so the owners can relocate. The homes must be torn down and the land left undeveloped.

In some cases, program funds can be used to elevate homes so they’re above 100-year flood levels.

Hurricane Matthew damaged or destroyed as many as 98,000 homes in Eastern North Carolina and nearly 20,000 businesses. It also damaged roads and water supply and waste treatment systems.

Since the storm, nearly 4,000 homeowners applied for hazard mitigation grants. About 2,700 were found eligible to participate, but the state had funds to help only 788. Most were in the four counties hardest hit by the flooding: Robeson, Wayne, Edgecombe and Cumberland, leaving some counties with no money at all to help flooded-out families.

In the 18 months since, affected families have been in limbo, unable to live in their damaged homes but reluctant to borrow money to repair them in case the government might eventually buy them out.

Sprayberry said that with the data the state has collected so far, “We could move quickly,” to identify projects to fund with the new grant money.

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