North Carolina

$236 million in Hurricane Matthew relief went unspent. Here's 'what took us so long.'

Lumberton residents use canoes and kayaks to check on properties, pets

VIDEO: Delores Miller checks on her elderly mother's home in downtown Lumberton after Hurricane Matthew caused downed trees, power outages and massive flooding along the Lumber River Tuesday, October 11, 2016 in Lumberton, N.C.
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VIDEO: Delores Miller checks on her elderly mother's home in downtown Lumberton after Hurricane Matthew caused downed trees, power outages and massive flooding along the Lumber River Tuesday, October 11, 2016 in Lumberton, N.C.

Under fire for delays in spending federal Hurricane Matthew recovery, North Carolina Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry said the timeline is "not acceptable."

Sprayberry was responding to criticism from legislators and others during an interview Wednesday on the Spectrum News show "Capital Tonight." The interview came two days after Sprayberry's deputy faced heated questions from lawmakers about the agency's failure to spend any of a $236.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"We need to compress that timeline," Sprayberry told Spectrum. "If you're a disaster survivor, money can't get to you fast enough. We expect to start spending some of that money next month."

But the Emergency Management chief said part of the timeline was a result of the "natural process of how this funding works." The money isn't available until several months after it appears on the federal register, and then the state had to set up a multi-step application process for the funding. "The earliest you can get something like this would be eight to 10 months," he said.

Sprayberry also said in the interview that the process was slowed down because Emergency Management took on oversight from the Department of Commerce and had to create new policies and processes.

"We had to develop all that from scratch," he said. "That's what took us so long to get where we are today."

Asked why South Carolina's recovery is moving faster, Sprayberry said he couldn't comment. And he told Spectrum he's "not sure" if state government could have provided recovery money and been reimbursed later by the federal government, because the feds might view that as a sign North Carolina doesn't need funding.

North Carolina state government plans to purchase land on higher ground, expanding Princeville’s boundaries and creating a less flood prone location.

Latisha Beatty, of Ivanhoe, N.C., is one of thousands of displaced residents dealing with a destroyed home. She talks about the flooding and heartache as she makes her bi-weekly checkup of the house which was destroyed by the Black River floodwate

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