No CDBG funds for N.C.

Published 8:38 pm Wednesday, March 7, 2012

North Carolina, Beaufort County and its municipalities won’t be receiving any of the $400 million in emergency aid to help communities in eight states recover from presidentially declared natural disasters in 2011.

Although many counties, cities and towns in eastern North Carolina suffered severely from Hurricane Irene, they have been denied access to those Community Development Block Grant funds. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s website notes “these grants will support long-term disaster recovery efforts in areas with the greatest extent of ‘unmet need.’”

The CDBG funds supplement other forms of disaster assistance, according to the HUD website.

The following states will receive the emergency aid (amounts are rounded off): New York, $93.2 million; North Dakota, $79.3 million; Alabama, $55.5 million; Missouri, $53.9 million; Pennsylvania, $49.2 million; Texas, $31.3 million; Vermont, $21.6 million; New Jersey, $15.6 million.

“These funds are intended to confront unmet housing, business and infrastructure needs beyond those addressed by other forms of public and private assistance,” according to the HUD website. “Using a combination of federal data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Small Business Administration (SBA), HUD identified those states and local communities most impacted and requiring the greatest assistance to recover due to the devastating tornadoes in the Southeast and Missouri; the remnants of Hurricanes Irene and Lee in the Northeast and New England; severe flooding in parts of North Dakota; and destructive wildfires in Texas.”

John Pack, Beaufort County’s emergency-management director, said HUD’s decision would not deter him from seeking other forms of aid for county resident affected by Hurricane Irene.

“We have to determine where are we going to find grant funds to help these people,” Pack said.

In the past five years since he’s been the county’s emergency-management director, Pack said such CDBG funds have “helped a lot of people.”

“It’s been a tool we’ve used in the past. … It’s a tool we no longer have in our toolbox,” Pack said.

In the past, such funding has been used to help elevate houses in flood-prone areas, he said. Such funding would be useful in helping elevate houses (some owned by people who have never been affected by hurricanes or other natural disaster before) damaged by Hurricane Irene, Pack said.

“That money could have been used to help elevate those structures,” Pack said.

Reed Whitesell, a planner with Holland Consulting Planners, said it’s puzzling that HUD is not providing supplemental disaster-recovery aid to North Carolina in the wake of Hurricane Irene when it did so after hurricanes Fran, Floyd and others in recent years.

“Having spent several months driving around impacted areas of Craven/Beaufort/Pamlico/Hyde County, it is very hard for me to comprehend that HUD has deigned that N.C. is not to receive supplemental assistance for Irene,” Whitesell wrote in an email to Valerie D. Moore, a senior research and innovation analyst with the N.C. Division of Community Investment and Assistance. “One might assume that HUD has chosen to rebuild the resort areas of rural Vermont. By copy of this e-mail, I am asking our clients to contact their elected representatives to obtain an accounting for this decision.”

Whitesell said he doesn’t understand how North Carolina could be denied a share of the $400 million, considering the damage it suffered as a result of Hurricane Irene.

In an email reply to Whitesell, Moore said the Division of Community Investment and Assistance, a division of the N.C. Department of Commerce, “is exploring alternatives including allowing communities to repurpose existing grants, apply for programs under the current CDBG cycle, and redirecting CDBG funds to share with the impacted communities. CI is also coordinating efforts with other state agencies including Emergency Management.”

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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