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Hundreds still displaced after Hurricanes Matthew and Florence after state program fails to meet expectations

Hurricane Florence brought "catastrophic flash flooding" to the Carolinas, the National Hurricane Center says.
Hurricane Florence brought "catastrophic flash flooding" to the Carolinas, the National Hurricane Center says.

Hundreds of families are still displaced from their homes years after Hurricanes Matthew and Florence. State lawmakers say a program that's supposed to help these families rebuild their homes is not meeting expectations.

Williams and his wife applied for Rebuild N-C in 2019. The program helps low-income families impacted by Hurricanes Matthew and Florence rebuild their homes.

The couple moved out in March 2020 because repairs were supposed to start on their home.

“After so many weeks they came back again and told us that it will be an additional two months,” he said, “After that two months, they come back and tell us it will be an additional two months. and this went on and on up until this date.”

They're still living in a hotel in Kinston, waiting for their home to be fixed.

The Williams and other families in similar situations testified at a hearing Wednesday held by a legislative subcommittee.

Rebuild NC is run by the North Carolina Office of Recovery and Resiliency, also called N-CORE. The agency was created in October 2018 to distribute almost 780 million dollars in federal recovery funds awarded to the state after Hurricanes Matthew and Florence.

So far, NCORE has completed nearly 800 projects out of 4,200, less than 20 percent.

The agency has also spent approximately $12.7 million on housing families in hotels.

Laura Hogshead is the director of NCORR.

"This recovery is not going as you want it to go, it's not going how I want it to go, and it's certainly not going how the families sitting behind me and out in Eastern North Carolina want it to go. And that is on me,” she said.

She said her agency is making several changes to the program, including hiring in-house case managers instead of using a third party vendor, and requiring less paperwork in the application process for homeowners. 7

"We've been simplifying over the last few months,” Hogshead said, “We are now down to three to four pieces of documentation that we absolutely must have."

Lawmakers heavily criticized NCORE for their lack of progress. Republican State Senator Danny Britt represents Robeson County.

"Everything that your agency has done thus far has been unacceptable. We need to do better to help these folks,” he said.

The subcommittee is expected to meet again in 90 days for an update on the program.