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Millions In Disaster Relief Coming To North Carolina

Princeville, Flooding, Race, Hurricane Matthew
Leoneda Inge
A file photo of workers responding to flooding in Princeville after Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.

Victims of Hurricane Matthew are getting much needed relief. Governor Roy Cooper announced the state would be getting $198 million in federal grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“Hurricane Matthew hit us hard, but North Carolinians are resilient,” Cooper said. “These funds will give families and communities resources to repair homes, rebuild streets and get back to work,” the governor added in a statement released by his office.

The funds are desperately needed in eastern North Carolina towns like Princeville, which sits along the Tar River, in Edgecombe County. Princeville, which is the oldest town incorporated by African-Americans in the United States, has a long history of flood damage. And Matthew hit Princeville particularly hard, according to State Rep. Shelly Willingham, whose district includes the town.

“There were very few people that were able to move back into their houses so if you will ride through Princeville now it still looks like a war zone, you know, because all the houses are boarded up,” he said.

Willingham said he still gets calls from storm victims who start crying as soon as they begin talking. The Democratic representative said the relief funds are especially needed to help storm victims who were uprooted by the storm and are still living in hotels. 

“We need to get these people out of the hotels and get them into get them into some kind of permanent housing and this will do that,” he said.

State Senator Louis Pate represents storm victims facing similar problems. The Republican represents a district made up of three counties—Pitt, Lenoir and Wayne—that were slammed by the October 2016 hurricane. And Pate said too many of his constituents, like Willingham’s, remain in hotels: “They need temporary housing, they need the sense that they are back on their feet in some fashion and that they can, uh, hopefully get a job and get back to work and get their families sorted out.”

The four hardest hit counties — Edgecombe, Wayne, Cumberland and Robeson — will share the bulk of the relief funds, $198 million. The remaining $39 million will go the 46 other counties declared disaster areas in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. The governor’s office says the funds will be added to a $4.5 million federal grant awarded last week. That grant will be used to match trained case managers with Hurricane Matthew survivors. As of today, according to the governor’s office, 81,629 households across the 50 disaster-designated counties have registered for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Rusty Jacobs is WUNC's Voting and Election Integrity Reporter.
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