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State Agency's Missteps Result In Delayed Relief For Hurricane Matthew Victims, Report Says

Rusty Jacobs

Hurricane Matthew caused nearly $5 billion in damages across half the state's 100 counties and forced 4,000 evacuees into shelters. But missteps by an executive agency have delayed distribution of all but 3% of more than $236 million in federal Community Development Block Grant - Disaster Recovery, or CDBG-DR, funds.

That's one of the findings in a report by the North Carolina General Assembly's non-partisan Program Evaluation Division, which was presented Monday to the Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee.

The evaluation division's report said the newly created North Carolina Office of Recovery and Resiliency, or NCORR, was inexperienced in administering the CDBG-DR program, in part, because North Carolina had not received such grants since 1999.

That led to delays in distributing funds and contracts that didn't meet federal regulations, according to Program Evaluator Brent Lucas, who addressed the joint committee.

"These contracting issues led to the state spending $3.7 million unnecessarily which could have been paid for with federal money," Lucas stated.

But Laura Hogshead, chief operating officer of NCORR, disputed that the funds were misspent.

"It was spent on hurricane survivors, so while it was not reimbursed by the federal government it was a proper use of funds, of the state funds," she told the committee.

Hogshead did not dispute that her agency lacked experience with administering the CDBG-DR program.

Next month, the joint committee is expected to consider legislation aimed at implementing some of the report's recommendations, including changing some of NCORR's temporary positions to permanent ones.

Rusty Jacobs is a politics reporter for WUNC.
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