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Area gets $11.1M in storm-related recovery funds

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Norman Dorsey carries a few things he saved from his flooded home on Bonner Drive in the Oxford Heights subdivision of Elizabeth City, following Hurricane Matthew, Monday, Oct. 10.

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Area counties received $11.1 million in federal recovery funds for Hurricane Matthew, North Carolina Emergency Management reported last week.

Last week, The Daily Advance asked Gov. Roy Cooper's office and NCEM for details on disaster funding for the five counties it covers, namely Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Pasquotank and Perquimans. It took time, but state officials have compiled how much federal aid has gone to the region so far.

The five-county area has received about 2.3 percent of the total $481.5 million in federal disbursements so far to the thousands of North Carolinians hit hard by Hurricane Matthew. The October storm caused severe, historic flooding throughout the state.

NCEM's numbers show Currituck and Camden counties have received the most federal funding of the five counties. Currituck has received $4.84 million so far. That number includes grants for individuals through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, loans for people and businesses through the Small Business Administration, grants for local governments' storm costs, and major payouts through the National Flood Insurance Program.

Those same programs have provided Camden about $3.82 million, while Pasquotank comes in at a distant third at $1.44 million. Chowan and Perquimans have received the least funding so far, at about $578,000 and $422,000 respectively.

The numbers also show that flood insurance payouts have been the single largest form of federal aid in all five counties, as well as statewide. The NFIP has paid out 223 claims in Currituck – a number that could include payouts to a single person with multiple properties – totaling $3.41 million, while it's paid out $2.60 million for 99 claims in Camden. Chowan, Pasquotank and Perquimans have had a combined 56 claims paid out; those claims totaled about $903,000.

While the five counties have received a significant amount of federal aid, they will still be feeling Matthew's impacts for years to come. FEMA has only paid the region's storm victims about $1 million in grants, offering most long-term loans to help repair their homes. Even with generous terms, some storm victims have said they're in no position to repay those loans. With limited funding, state officials have explained grant funds must go to those of the least means.

To that point, Pasquotank notably received the most in FEMA grants, at about $307,000 – giving some indication that Matthew harmed many low-income county residents.

Federal funds paid out to date also don't include any payouts under the “Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.” That program can improve homes to be more flood resilient, such as by elevating them, or even buy out properties that are so flood-prone that no one should live on them. Forty three applicants from the region have asked that program for help, but local and state officials have said it could take two years for them to get funding.

That's if they get funding at all – there are 2,707 applicants statewide competing for very limited funding, the numbers show.

Cooper's office has estimated that Matthew inflicted $4.8 billion in damages on North Carolina. State residents have only gotten approved for $1.1 billion in aid so far, however, counting federal and state funding. Cooper asked for more than $900 million in additional federal funding in April, but lawmakers funded only about $6 million of that request.

Cooper spokeswoman Noelle Talley wrote last week that Cooper continues “working closely” with the state's Congressional delegation, including Sen. Thom Tillis and Reps. David Price, G.K. Butterfield, Richard Hudson, David Rouzer and Robert Pittenger, and U.S. Housing and Urban Development, “to secure the additional recovery help needed in the fiscal year 2018 appropriations package.”

“Major unmet needs include housing repairs and elevation, agricultural losses, public facilities and small business assistance,” she also wrote.

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