Money for families who lost their homes in Hurricane Matthew has finally started trickling into North Carolina, nearly two years after the storm devastated much of the eastern part of the state with intense flooding.
Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration announced Tuesday that 22 families received a combined $286,000 on Tuesday, which is the first of millions of dollars that the federal government’s Housing and Urban Development has set aside for North Carolina’s disaster relief efforts in the area.
“Recovery is picking up steam with more repairs getting underway and more families getting money back for home repairs,” said Mike Sprayberry, the state’s Emergency Management director. “We know help can never come fast enough to those in need and we are pushing to get hammers swinging on more recovery projects across eastern North Carolina.”
The Department of Public Safety announcement said the money for “will be used to repair damaged homes and to reimburse homeowners for work that is already completed.”
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HUD has approved $236 million for housing relief in North Carolina, nearly all of which must be spent in Robeson, Cumberland, Wayne and Edgecombe counties — a stretch of the state that includes Fayetteville, Goldsboro and Rocky Mount. All 22 families who received the first round of relief money Tuesday were from those four counties.
Cooper was in the area on Tuesday for the announcement. He visited a business in Princeville and a home in Tarboro that were damaged by the hurricane, as well as a new apartment complex in Tarboro that the state-run N.C. Housing Finance Agency began building last year as an affordable housing option for people in the area.
Cooper has faced criticism since last year for his administration’s handling of the response to Hurricane Matthew, which hit the state just before Cooper’s victory over former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory in the 2016 election.
McCrory, who now hosts a radio talk show in Charlotte, has attacked Cooper for his handling of the response. Republican legislators in the N.C. General Assembly have also joined in, launching a subcommittee last week to investigate why, among other things, South Carolina’s housing relief efforts got underway months before North Carolina’s did.
But Cooper’s office has pointed to the nearly $750 million in disaster relief funds already given out during Cooper’s time in office, and has blamed some of the delays for the housing money on the federal government bureaucracy slowing things down.