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A smart move

On the front page of the Wednesday paper, a message of hope for some of Beaufort County’s most vulnerable. The deadline for submitting Hazard Mitigation Grant Program applications that could lead to home elevation, government buyouts and other types of flood mitigation for property owners has been extended from this Friday to mid-March.

This is good news for a number of reasons.

In Beaufort County, where local leaders did not authorize the pursuit of HMGP funding until early last month, the Feb. 8 deadline did not allow adequate time for homeowners who were flooded during Florence to learn about the flood mitigation process and the options available. Information about how to pursue these funds was not readily available and the tight turnaround did not allow much time to collect the needed documentation to apply for HMGP funding.

Likewise, this extension will give county staff more time to process applications and do due diligence to identify and reach homeowners who have been affected by the storm. A series of meetings scheduled in Belhaven, Aurora and Washington will allow residents the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about a process that can be complicated and difficult to navigate.

Now, everyone, from county staff to affected homeowners, has a little more room to breathe and time to process how to go about applying for these funds.

As stated by Emergency Services staff, applying for HMGP funds does not mean immediate assistance. Rather, it is the beginning of a process that can last for anywhere between two and three years before a project is completed.

When we’re talking about a timetable that long, there is certainly no need to rush through the application process. In the grand scheme of things, the application process, probably one of the most critical phases, should be well-communicated and methodical in its approach. Two years from now, there should be no one in Beaufort County who can say they didn’t have a chance to apply for mitigation funding when they needed it.

This extension allows that to happen and gives homeowners time to collect all the documentation they need. That doesn’t mean they should wait until the last minute; rather they should go ahead and start, taking the time to make sure everything is in order.

While not everyone who applies for HMGP funds will receive assistance, applying is a big deal. Those applications will help Emergency Services update an ongoing database of flood-prone properties for future reference, giving a better overall picture of Beaufort County’s needs, potentially making the case for additional grant funding in the future.

Between that and the people who could potentially find help after years of dealing with flood after flood, that’s well worth five extra weeks.