Commentary

The 1% non-solution: NC needs much more federal aid to rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Matthew

Hurricane Matthew flooding – Image: Wikimedia Commons

Last week, we learned the Trump administration will provide just $6.1 million to North Carolina to support the rebuilding of communities and address the damage to farms, main street businesses, and homes in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. This is a mere 1 percent of the request made to the federal government and a rounding error relative to the estimated $2.8 billion in investments that are truly needed to build a resilient region.

The news of the federal abandonment of our state’s communities came on the heels of the North Carolina Senate budget release that provides just $70 million in state dollars for the rebuilding effort (an additional $80 million is allocated to draw down the expected federal request of more than $900 million). This would bring the total state commitment to date to just $270 million.

It’s clear what choice our lawmakers in the General Assembly and at the federal level have made. North Carolina’s Eastern region—one that is on the front lines of rising tides and cresting rivers, has struggled with industry and population loss, and continues to contend each day with the legacy of slavery and sharecropping—has been abandoned.

It doesn’t have to be this way. State lawmakers can immediately revise the Senate budget proposal to draw down the more than $1 billion socked away for a Rainy Day and stop planned income tax cuts for the wealthy and profitable companies that would reduce state revenues by $800 million. These dollars would be better used today to make sure that the more than 1,000 families without homes have a secure, affordable place to sleep. Those dollars could refurbish the region’s economic engines of agriculture and Main Streets by readying them to sustain the next storm and adapt to the new economy.

The quality of life we deliver to all people and communities is a measure of the health of our state’s economy. And failing to invest in every community in their time of need is a loss for us all.

The federal government’s abandonment of our state is not likely to end with this decision. Instead, it is clear through the Trump Administration’s budget proposal and Congress’ recent vote removing health care coverage for millions that the federal government plans to shift significant costs to the states.

The North Carolina General Assembly should prepare accordingly as they will be the ones left to deal with the fallout. Investing in all North Carolinians, rather cutting taxes for the few, is the only way to ensure that North Carolina can thrive, no matter what challenges lie in our future – natural or man-made.

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