When Hurricane Matthews hit North Carolina on October 8, severe flooding impacted more than 800,000 homes, more than 300,000 businesses, displaced 3,744 residents, closed 635 roads, and 34 school systems causing an estimated $2.8 billion in damage and another $2 billion in lost economic activity. The North Carolina General Assembly responded by allocating $200.9 million in what would be the first investment towards recovery. The Federal government kicked in an additional $332 million. Since then, no additional funding has gone to help Eastern North Carolina rebuild.
Rather than choosing to dedicate funding to help Eastern NC recover, policymakers have taken a “wait and see” approach, waiting to see how much additional federal funding the state will receive before allocating state dollars. In April, Gov. Cooper and the NC Congressional Delegation requested $929.4 million in Federal help.
We waited for nearly six months after the storm to see where help would come from. Yesterday, we saw. The Trump administration authorized just $6.1 million.
Hurricane Matthew was not North Carolina’s first time dealing with major post-hurricane flooding. In 1999, Hurricane Floyd caused what is now considered to be lower levels of flooding and damage throughout the East. Governor Hunt and the General Assembly reacted by allocating $830 million state dollars to ensure a swift and speedy recovery. At that time more than one-third of the entire effort, $286 million, was pulled from the state’s Rainy Day Fund.
Yesterday’s Senate bill allocates just $70 million dollars to fund unspecified activities in the rebuilding effort, an additional $80 million was intended to be a state match for federal dollars that are not coming. Both figures combined still fall woefully short of the $2.8 billion worth of damages.
While our leaders must do everything to urge a greater federal response to our state, they must also prepare our own response for if the federal government truly abandons us in our time of need.
The North Carolina Senate can lead the effort by drawing from the more than $1 billion in the state’s Rainy Day fund and stopping any further tax cuts proposed that reduce available revenue by at least $800 million when fully implemented.
After six months, far too many families and workers are still displaced from their homes and jobs. Far too many communities are still not rebuilt despite the approaching Hurricane season. After nearly an entire school year, many children are still yet to return to their home schools and many more have lost learning time and experienced a trauma.
Life, for many, in the east, has not yet returned back to normal and without any type of recovery support, it’s hard to believe that it ever will.