Beaufort on governor’s 15-county disaster declaration list

Published 8:01 am Saturday, September 26, 2020

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

A request for a federal disaster declaration could mean reimbursement to Beaufort County and Tideland Electric Membership Cooperative for expenses in response to and damage caused by Hurricane Isaias.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper filed the request with the federal government this week, specifically asking for public assistance in 15 counties, including Beaufort, Bertie, Brunswick, Carteret, Chowan, Columbus, Craven, Hertford, Hyde, Jones, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico, Pender and Pitt.

“In the past, the biggest advantage, from a government perspective, of having that type of declaration approved federally, is that typically opens reimbursement windows for government operations in response to the storm,” said Beaufort County Emergency Services Deputy Director Chris Newkirk. “From a citizen’s standpoint, that has the potential to open up assistance programs, like low-interest loans or something of that nature. But we won’t know that until it gets further down the road.”

If approved, the major disaster declaration would provide federal funds to help reimburse county and state governments and some nonprofit organizations for some of the cost of responding to the storm and repair damaged infrastructure, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

“For us, that would entail things like standing up our emergency operations center, any emergency operations we did during that time period, and any damages we had,” said Beaufort County Manager Brian Alligood. “We had some, but the damages were small.”

Aside from damage to homes in an isolated area hit by a tornado, there were relatively few significant damages to private residences during the storm, Alligood said.

For utility companies such as Tideland EMC, however, the storm caused significant damage to electrical infrastructure. Those federal reimbursement funds, if approved, would allow Tideland to cover those costs, rather than having to pass them along to customers.

“Essentially, this would replenish the funds that we expended for that, which obviously spares our ratepayers from having to bear the cost of the storm,” said Heidi Smith, Tideland’s cooperate communications manager. “Without that replenishment, we would have a budget gap of money we already allocated for normal system maintenance and improvement. … Our ratepayers are always appreciative of anything that helps hold the line on rates, and this does help us achieve that.”