Gov. Pat McCrory on Wednesday outlined a Hurricane Matthew recovery effort that will look for ways to avoid repeated flooding in hard-hit communities such as Princeville in Edgecombe County, which was submerged after Hurricane Floyd in 1999 and again this year.
The plan details immediate and long-term goals to rebuild from the destruction of Matthew and its ensuing flooding that struck North Carolina earlier this month. The centerpiece of the plan is the formation of a committee led by his chief of staff, Thomas Stith, that will include representatives of business, agriculture and other interests.
McCrory said Stith would report directly to him and Mike Sprayberry, the director of N.C. Emergency Management, on the committee’s progress. Others who will share duties running the committee include Steve Wordsworth of Rocky Mount, representing business; Anne Faircloth of Clinton, for agriculture; and Vanessa Harrison of AT&T, representing utilities.
“We will do what it takes to get your life back,” McCrory said of those displaced by the storm.
The governor made the remarks in a live-streamed event in the old House chambers of the state Capitol Building.
He said it marked a shift from 16 days of rescue efforts into a new recovery phase.
McCrory also announced that he had signed an executive order calling on the General Assembly to excuse schools closed by the storm from meeting the minimum number of classroom hours required under state law. He said he was asking school boards in those areas not to reschedule lost school days until after the legislature acts.
Other action initiated within the past two days includes issuing disaster food stamps for those in the affected areas of the state, approving disaster unemployment assistance to those who have lost their jobs because of the storm, extending tax filing deadlines and waiving late penalties, and identifying $21.9 million in federal funding for individual assistance.
There are still 500 roads closed or with lane restrictions, mostly in the eastern part of the state, and nearly 1,000 people in shelters, he said.
In addition to forming the committee, McCrory said the immediate goals are to:
▪ Solicit donations to the state’s disaster relief fund to help rebuild housing for those whose homes were lost or severely damaged.
▪ Reopen roads, bridges, rail and water lines as soon as it can be safely done.
▪ Come up with a strategy for rebuilding towns and communities and make them better prepared for the next flood.
▪ Assess the financial impact of the storm on the agricultural community, small businesses, commercial fishermen and others, and develop a long-term recovery plan.
▪ Recommend what else the legislature should do to come up with additional relief money for people and businesses.
McCrory thanked swift-water rescue teams, animal rescue teams, National Guard, churches and first-responders. “Our state owes you a debt of gratitude for your heroic service,” he said.
McCrory said he appreciated all the volunteers, which includes former Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue, who offered to serve on the recovery committee. He didn’t say if he accepted her offer.
Where to get help
There are six centers where people can apply for help paying for housing, medical and dental needs, disaster recovery unemployment assistance and other needs.
Centers are open in Nash, Harnett, Wilson, Edgecombe, Johnston and Wayne counties. People in need of storm-related assistance can call FEMA’s hotline at 800-621-3362.
Monetary contributions to the state disaster relief fund for Hurricane Matthew can be made by texting NCRECOVERS to 30306 or by visiting NCDisasterRelief.org.