Meeting draws no response

Published 12:37 am Friday, October 21, 2011

Sometimes a small public turnout to an event is a good thing.

That was the way local, state and federal officials interpreted a meeting Wednesday night when some 25 local, state and federal emergency responders gathered at Beaufort County Community College to meet with the public about the recovery from Hurricane Irene and no members of the public attended.

“I think this is a good sign,” said Beaufort County Manager Randell K. Woodruff to the assembled officials. “It shows that even though this is not a pleasant experience to go through, people are satisfied with the help they have been getting.”

However, Woodruff said that even though no members of the public attended the meeting, Beaufort County needs all the help it can get recovering from the hurricane.

“We’ll continue to be calling and asking for assistance,” he said. “We do need the help.”

Former U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge, who has been tapped as a special adviser for hurricane-recovery efforts, said that federal and state officials have been “working very hard to do outreach, recognizing that a lot more needs to be done.”

Responding to Woodruff’s comments, Etheridge said disaster-recovery officials would stay with those who need help “until we get it done.”

Etheridge and local officials said they were pleased with the decision by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to extend the deadline for survivors of Hurricane Irene to seek help.

That deadline has been extended to Nov. 30, Etheridge said.

In announcing the extension, FEMA officials said continued registration for help indicates that some survivors are still assessing hurricane damage and need more time to apply for help. The new deadline also gives more time for those needing help to return applications for loans from the Small Business Administration.

Beaufort County’s Emergency Management Coordinator John Pack said many people in Beaufort County have only recently decided to apply for help because they are only now learning of limits on their insurance coverage.

Pack told the Daily News that those who need help should complete the application package even if they don’t intend to seek a loan from the SBA.

“The application is the first step in the process,” he said. “FEMA can’t determine eligibility if people don’t complete the application. If you skip to step three, then steps four and five can’t happen.”

Additional meetings with state and federal disaster officials are planned next week for Dare, Hyde, Pamlico and Tyrrell counties.