Princeville frustrations high a year after Hurricane Matthew

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Princeville remains a mess a year after Matthew.

In Princeville, signs of Hurricane Matthew remain everywhere you look. The elementary school is still closed; so is the senior center in town; so are four apartment complexes.

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"Have we gotten a check?" Edgecombe County Commissioner Viola Harris asked on behalf of Matthew's victims? "No," she said, answering her own question. "Once they said how much they were going to send, all of a sudden, they had to have a new study done."

Harris is skeptical the state and federal governments want to help.

"What they deem important?" she again asked. "Nobody wants to say it, but Princeville is a predominantly black town."

State officials acknowledge help has been slow to filter down to the ground level in Princeville and other hard-hit parts of the state but say they're working hard to make things right.

Last week, Gov. Roy Cooper announced plans to move key facilities in town to a new location away from low-lying parts of town.

"We're still working," he told local and government officials during a tour of the ground. "There's a lot that has been done to help people get back on their feet; a lot of work to do. We know that trying to get money to local governments to help rebuild infrastructure, to help rebuild low income housing, to mitigate damages, to elevate homes, there is still work to do. Recovery is long term and for victims, the help can never come fast enough and we know that."

Still, Harris said help has been particularly slow since Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

"Once floods hit Houston and Florida," she said, "the money was frozen. We had it, then those things occurred and all of a sudden, it was frozen. I don't understand that. Princeville has been waiting for a year; other parts of North Carolina have been waiting for a year. These things just happened and all of a sudden the money has dried up and has not arrived."

Cooper acknowledged the challenge of getting federal money in the midst of overwhelming need but pledged to keep fighting for it.

"Congress is going to have to face some tough decisions here about significant funding for Florida and for Puerto Rico and Texas. There's a lot that's happened there and significant damage. So, going forward, all the states that have been affected, we've got to realize that we're all in this together and we need the help."
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