Millions in hurricane relief still on the way for NC despite COVID-19 crisis

Thursday, April 23, 2020
Millions in hurricane relief still on the way for NC despite COVID-19 crisis
Millions in hurricane relief still on the way for NC despite COVID-19 crisis.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- If Hurricane Matthew and Hurricane Florence were like a 1-2 punch, the novel coronavirus could have been the knockout.

Fortunately for those victims, though, up to $542.6 million in disaster relief is still on schedule to arrive in North Carolina and be given out to the tens of thousands of residents still rebuilding their homes and their livelihoods.

"We have not seen a slowdown," Laura Hogshead, Chief Operating Officer of the North Carolina Office of Recovery and Resiliency (NCORR), tells ABC11. "We anticipated that we might, but we have not seen that. They're ready for us to be there and we're ready to have a grant agreement with (the federal government)."

The $542.6 million earmarked for Hurricane Florence relief is part of an account frequently referred to as "funds of last resort:" Community Development Block Grants-Disaster Relief (CDBG-DR) from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development )HUD). NCORR submitted its Draft Action Plan on March 10, giving HUD 45 days to approve the plan and present a final agreement with the state - an agreement that could be delivered as early as next week.

Hogshead says NCORR is simultaneously setting up an online system so applicants will not have to visit a neutral site and be in close physical contact with a case manager (phone services will also be available).

"We're going to do everything we can remotely so that no one is slowed down," Hogshead maintained. "A lot of the work we need to do to establish eligibility and establish their rightful award can be done behind the scenes, including checking with FEMA, the Small Businesses Administration and income levels."

NCORR's 124-page Action Plan, submitted March 10, is based on several HUD guidelines and includes the following provisions, among others:

  • 80 percent must be allocated to "most impacted and distressed areas"
  • 70 percent must support lower-income and middle-income households and individuals
  • 60 percent of funds for repairs for severely damaged homes
  • 20 percent of funds for new rental properties and affordable housing choices
  • 6 percent of funds to buy out flood-ravaged properties

Hurricane Florence in total inflicted approximately $17 billion worth of damage - about two thirds of North Carolina's state budget for the last fiscal year.

Florence made landfall on North Carolina on Sept. 16, 2018, and an earlier ABC11 I-Team analysis at the one-year anniversary found roughly $7 billion either distributed, approved or obligated, and an additional pot of up to $1 billion on hold.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approved $132.6 million in individual and household grants for 34,691 homeowners and renters. All the funds have been distributed. FEMA has also approved $303,107,597.80 in Public Assistance Grants which reimburse state agencies, local governments and eligible non-profits. NC Emergency Management officials expect that number to potentially double during the next year or two as cities, counties and the state file more applications.

The U.S. Small Business Administration, meanwhile, approved disaster loans totaling more than $405.4 million for 10,051 applicants.