North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley has approved a request from the Western Recovery Task Force to provide assistance to local governments affected by the six storms that inflicted heavy losses in North Carolina this fall. In response to the task force recommendations presented to the governor earlier this month, Easley is making $90 million in relief funds available.
The money comes from a reallocation of funds that the governor ordered last month from state agencies to offset storm losses and help meet recovery needs. The primary damage from the six storms occurred in the western part of the state, but a portion of the funds made available by Easley will also be used to cover damages in other counties affected by storms.
“Even though some of the businesses affected by the storms have reopened and repairs are under way on people’s homes, far more work needs to be done,” Easley said. “The sooner our citizens can get back to normal, the sooner the economy of the areas affected by the storms can fully recover.
“This year’s storms left millions of dollars in damage,” he said. “This combination of state and federal funds provides an important step in our state’s recovery.”
The governor will leverage much of the state money to obtain federal matching funds, which helps take the strain off local governments. In all, state funds will allow Easley to access about $172 million in federal dollars.
The Western Recovery Task Force, established by Easley in October, is charged with assessing needs and designing a recovery plan. The 41-member group consists of local officials, business leaders, non-profit organizations and economic developers. The chair sent Easley a letter recently with an initial assessment of needs. The task force is expected to provide a full report to the governor and the legislature later this month.
“I appreciate all the hard work and effort from our Western Recovery Task Force,” Easley said. “Their overall findings and recommendations will help us meet the needs of our citizens today and to be better prepared for the storms in the future.”
Hurricanes Frances and Ivan caused the greatest damage and were federally declared disasters in North Carolina. The Federal Emergency Management Agency provides 75 percent of the cost of uninsured repairs to personal and business property, debris removal, emergency response costs of government agencies, and repair of damaged public infrastructure. The state will provide up to $19 million and receive up to $75 million in federal relief funds for these two storms.
In addition, the state will pay up to $6.3 million to repair or replace about 250 privately owned bridges that are the sole access for permanent residents and were damaged or destroyed by these storms. The state is also designating about $6.2 million for housing and other personal assistance for individuals and businesses that did not qualify for Small Business Administration low-interest loans. The state will also invest up to $17 million in hazard mitigation to buy flooded homes and relocate residents, and the federal government will provide $25.2 million for the effort. Also, the state will provide about $9.3 million for floodplain mapping.
North Carolina will also provide $24 million in matching funds to leverage assistance from the United States Department of Agriculture, which will be providing North Carolina $72 million from two programs. USDA’s Emergency Watershed Program will provide $65.7 million to remove debris from streams, protect destabilized stream banks and eroding lands, and purchase flood plain easements. The agency’s Emergency Conservation Program will provide $6.3 million for debris removal, repair, restoration and conservation for farmlands. The state’s match for both programs will include state funds and in-kind resources for engineering, administration, and inspection.
State law allows the governor to reallocate state appropriations as necessary when the severity and magnitude of a disaster requires it and there are not sufficient funds in the state Contingency and Emergency Fund.
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