President Trump was typically off key when he visited hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico this week, tossing paper towels to the crowd, telling Puerto Ricans they should be “proud” of that the island’s death toll wasn’t higher and complaining that relief effort will throw the federal “budget a little out of whack.”
This weekend, Trump is headed for another awkward hurricane moment, this time in North Carolina. On Saturday, as North Carolina marks the anniversary of Hurricane Matthew, the president will make his first visit to the state since his inauguration in January. But he’s not coming in to see how the recovery is going in Eastern North Carolina. He’s coming to Greensboro for a fundraiser at at the home of Louis DeJoy, a Republican mega donor. DeJoy’s wife, Dr. Aldona Wos, led the state Department of Health and Human Services under former Gov. Pat McCrory.
There’s nothing wrong with wealthy Republicans raising funds for Trump and the Republican National Committee, but the scale and the timing of the lavish event hardly supports the president’s claim that he ran for president to help “the forgotten people.” The event costs $15,000 per couple for preferential seating at the dinner and a VIP reception before or after the president speaks. There are also donation levels at $100,000, $50,000 and $35,000 per couple, according to the invitation.
As Trump and the GOP collect political contributions, North Carolina is still waiting on federal relief funds to cover homes and businesses lost to Hurricane Matthew’s flooding. The storm is estimated to have inflicted $4.8 billion in damages. In May, Gov. Roy Cooper requested $929 million in federal relief funds. The state ultimately received $37 million.
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In a letter to Trump and Congressional leaders, Cooper said he was “shocked and disappointed” that the state’s request was largely denied. “Families across Eastern North Carolina need help to rebuild and recover, and it is an incredible failure by the Trump Administration and Congressional leaders to turn their backs,” he wrote.
Dempsey Benton, a former Raleigh city manager who’s serving as a special adviser to the governor on Hurricane Matthew, estimates the state has $800 million in unfunded recovery needs. Most of the needed money – $450 to $500 million – would go buying nearly 3,000 flood-prone homes in eastern counties and helping low- and moderate-income homeowners who need assistance to repair their homes.
Cooper and his Cabinet secretaries will join volunteers for a Rebuild NC Day of Service on Saturday in Lumberton, Fayetteville, Princeville, Goldsboro and Kinston. We hope the president will take a moment during his gathering with wealthy donors in Greensboro to remember the forgotten people of Eastern North Carolina and promise them the help they deserve.