Recovery

State Using Emails to Alert Hurricane Victims of Funding

The state already has disbursed more than $739 million in disaster-relief money but is only now beginning to tap into what will become more than $400 million in block grant funding.

by Greg Barnes, The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. / August 3, 2018
AP/Brian Blanco

(TNS) - More than 100 Cumberland County residents whose homes were damaged by Hurricane Matthew will soon be receiving emails encouraging them to apply for housing recovery program assistance, North Carolina Emergency Management said in a news release Thursday.

The new outreach effort aims to alert homeowners in areas affected by the hurricane that financial assistance may be available to them through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery program. Homeowners affected by the hurricane, which swept through on Oct. 8, 2016, can use the money to repair or rebuild their homes. Funding also can be used to reimburse qualified homeowners who completed repairs to their homes after the hurricane.

The state already has disbursed more than $739 million in disaster-relief money but is only now beginning to tap into what will become more than $400 million in block grant funding.

Emergency Management’s announcement of the outreach program follows House Speaker Tim Moore’s reauthorization Monday of the House Select Committee on Disaster Relief to investigate delays in releasing the block grant money.

The first allocation of block grant funds — $236 million — was awarded to the state by HUD in January 2017, about three months after the hurricane. Another $37 million was released four months later, and another $168 million is awaiting release.

But almost none of the money has made its way into the hands of homeowners. Some of the money did begin heading to Robeson County this week, and a home is being repaired in Sampson County using block grant funds. On Thursday, the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners' Finance Committee approved acquiring and demolishing two homes in the county at a cost of $266,761. The homes are on Orangeburg and West Manchester roads. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will pay $200,000 of the cost.

Among the homeowners still waiting for disaster-relief money is Evelyn Lindsey, whose home on Pennystone Drive sits perilously close to a large sinkhole caused by the hurricane.

Lindsey, who wants the county to use block grant money to buy her property, said county and state officials met at the home Wednesday to assess damages.

Lindsey has been forced to live with her mother since the hurricane. Lindsey has received $33,000 from FEMA, but she said that money was used to pay off credits cards so she could qualify for a low-interest loan that she originally planned to use to buy another house.

Emergency Management’s outreach effort will begin with emails this week and could expand to include text messages, phone calls and postcards.

“We know there are North Carolinians who were impacted by Hurricane Matthew, but who have yet to apply for assistance,” Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry said in the news release. "There are programs available to help pay for needed repairs and even reimburse homeowners for repairs they’ve already made, and this outreach will help us assist more people.”

Anyone affected by Hurricane Matthew is urged to visit the ReBuild NC website at rebuild.nc.gov to learn more about program options and to call 2-1-1 to make an appointment to visit one of the ReBuild NC Application Centers to see if they qualify for assistance.

Hurricane victims can apply for assistance at any of seven application centers across eastern North Carolina. More information can be found online about the centers in Bertie, Columbus, Cumberland, Edgecombe, Lenoir, Robeson and Wayne counties.

Staff writer Greg Barnes can be reached at gbarnes@fayobserver.com or 910-486-3525.

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