Hurricane Matthew team faces long road to recovery

Madeline Gray—North State Journal
Kinston Mayor BJ Murphy

TARBORO — While the massive amount of water left after Hurricane Matthew traveled through the state a month ago has finally receded, the lengthy recovery process for people across Eastern North Carolina has only just begun.Gov. Pat McCrory created the Hurricane Matthew Recovery Committee following the the hurricane to assist the state in working with local officials and displaced residents to rebuild their homes, businesses and communities. As part of the committee’s responsibilities, public forums are being held in Lumberton, Tarboro, Fayetteville, Greenville and Kinston to bring state and local officials together with residents in those counties highly affected by the flooding.”I’ve said this throughout the state, we will not forget the victims and communities affected by Hurricane Matthew,” said McCrory. “This is the worst natural disaster we’ve had happen to our state in most of our lifetimes.”We’re here to listen to you. We have our teams put together as a listening function to ensure we are hearing everything that is happening on the ground to make both short-term and long-term plans for any area impact in these regions,” he said during the public meeting in Edgecombe County on Nov. 18.McCrory tasked the Hurricane Matthew Recovery Committee with three major responsibilities: fundraising for housing and small business recovery; community outreach; and developing long-term plans for sustainable recovery.Currently, there are 32 disaster recovery centers open throughout the state to assist citizens in applying for aid through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.”Our role is to bring to bear all the components of the federal government that can assist in the recovery process,” said Elizabeth Turner, federal coordination officer for FEMA.The recovery meetings include opportunities for the public to ask questions and address members of the committee with their concerns. Many residents of Princeville and flooded parts of Tarboro were interested in small business grants, buyouts of housing properties and understanding the FEMA process.McCrory announced the committee was in the process of assessing the gaps in funding between those needs that can be covered financially under the federal government and those needs that are left unaccounted for. Recommendations and a proposal will be submitted in early December to the state legislature for approval.Members of the public sharing their concerns included Daisy Staton, whose Princeville home was flooded by Hurricane Floyd in 1999 and again by Hurricane Matthew.Staton and other residents of Princeville are concerned with the FEMA buyout process. Princeville, the oldest town chartered by blacks in America, was entirely underwater due to Hurricane Matthew. The town hall, the elementary school and most homes were flooded out.”I’m tired of running,” she said. “I’d like to move farther from the river.”The governor’s Hurricane Matthew Recovery Committee will hold three additional meetings for residents impacted by the flood. Those meetings are scheduled for Nov. 21 in Fayetteville at Fayetteville Technical Community College; Nov. 30 in Greenville at East Carolina University; and Dec. 2 in Kinston at Lenoir Community College. All meetings are open to the public and scheduled from 10 a.m. to noon.