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Three years later, many are still recovering from Florence

By Philip Sayblack 

For The Washington Daily News

As the 2021 hurricane season nears its peak, some residents of eastern North Carolina are still dealing with damage inflicted by Hurricane Florence, which hit the region three years ago.

Financial assistance remains available for Beaufort County residents whose homes were damaged by the storm, which made its way through North Carolina Sept. 14-16, just after the season’s peak that year.

Beaufort County was one of 34 counties statewide declared a disaster area as a result of the storm’s impact. That meant that assistance was available for residents impacted by the storm.  Today it remains one of 27 counties still eligible for that assistance.

According to a report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Belhaven was among the state’s hardest hit municipalities. The town had more than 1,100 structures impacted by the flooding.

“We don’t get any information on whether anyone is still applying for financial assistance from the state in regards to Hurricane Florence’s impact,” said Belhaven Town Administrator Lynn Davis. “That information comes from the state Office of Economic Opportunity. While we did get a lot of water, the work that FEMA did in the late 90s and early 2000s to elevate structures in the town was beneficial. If not for that, the damage to the town from Florence would have been much worse.”

Davis said many residents applied for the money after the storm.

Lisa Williams, Mid-East Commission Disaster Economic Recovery Coordinator, said people seeking financial assistance can contact ReBuild NC at 1-888-275-7262 as long as they meet the criteria to apply for assistance from the state.  In order to be eligible, applicants’ household incomes must be at or below 200% of the federal poverty level if they apply by Sept. 30 and at or below 125 percent of the federal poverty level if applying by Oct. 1.

“Applications have come from across the county with the largest number of applicants coming from rural, flood prone areas,” said Williams.” They have come mostly from east of Chocowinity on the south side of the Pamlico River and east of Washington in the south side.

“Getting the message out about available resources is a challenge,” Williams added. “Beaufort County has a diverse age and education level demographic.  Information shared through internet and social media may not reach all of our senior population.  Likewise information only in printed form may be a challenge to a non-reader.  Partnerships with news outlets like the Washington Daily News and local television news channels are an important resource in meeting the challenge.  Recovery from a storm like Florence is long term. That is why every effort is made on the local, state and federal level to keep resource opportunities available as long as possible to give anyone impacted an opportunity to seek assistance.”

Williams stated the statewide damage estimate from Hurricane Florence was approximately $24 billion.