05/17/18 — Flood victims want state to explain slow pace

View Archive

Flood victims want state to explain slow pace

By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 17, 2018 11:06 AM

Full Size


Renee Hinson of the Grantham community expresses her frustration and anger with the slow pace of the state's handling of Hurricane Mathew disaster relief funding. She was one of several who spoke at last Tuesday's Wayne County commissioners meeting.

Full Size


Wayne County Assistant Manager Chip Crumpler answers questions from Hurricane Matthew victims during last Tuesday's Wayne County commissioners meeting.

Wayne County victims of Hurricane Matthew want answers as to why the state has yet to release millions of dollars in federal disaster funds -- 19 months after the storm left sections of the county under water.

They want those answers from N.C. Emergency Management Director Michael Sprayberry, whom they plan to ask to come to Wayne County to provide those answers face-to-face.

"We are fed up," said Renee Hinson, whose home on Hood Drive in the Grantham community was submerged by floodwaters in October 2016. "It is unacceptable what the state is doing, holding the money for whatever reason. Nobody can find out why.

"Nineteen months is unacceptable. The state of North Carolina should be a lot better than that."

Hinson was among storm victims who packed Tuesday's meeting of Wayne County commissioners to voice their frustration and anger.

The speakers directed their frustration at the state, and not the county.

"After the meeting, we all of kind gathered outside, and we all just talked about how upset and how fed up we are," Hinson said. "We formed a Facebook group page called Hurricane Matthew Victims Seeking Answers."

Anyone with a Facebook page is asked to join the group through Hinson's Facebook page, or through Amy Lancaster.

Those who don't have a Facebook page can call Hinson at 919-440-1459 or Lancaster at 919-223-0422.

"We want this group to grow as big as it can," Hinson said. "Anybody who has not been flooded, but who wants to support us in this effort, we are glad to have anyone to come on board to do that as well."

During Tuesday's meeting, Hinson told commissioners she had flood insurance, but that by the time it paid her mortgage off her family didn't have enough money left to start over with a new home.

Hood said she understands the state has $1.4 billion in federal funds to go to North Carolina flood victims.

"So my question is, where's it at and why aren't us flood victims able to get it?" she said.

Hinson said she has friends in Texas and South Carolina who were flooded and who already have their homes together.

"This is just crazy," she said. "It is time for somebody to take a stand and take care of what is going on here in North Carolina."

It was a familiar story shared by other speakers.

"On Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016, my family of five, and two dogs, loaded up our car with three things each we couldn't live without and said goodbye to the only home our children had ever known," said Joey Lancaster of Perkins Road.

"The last 19 months we have gone from having our newly remodeled home that'll be paid off in 12 years and now moving twice into two different rental homes."

That has meant two different school districts, and the family has paid nearly $12,000 in rent in addition to the monthly mortgage payment that must be paid to safeguard his family's credit, he said.

Lancaster said he has taken on additional jobs on weekends to supplement the family income in order to pay the rent which is higher than the mortgage payment.

Lancaster said he is receiving less than $10,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and $2,000 from homeowners insurance to recover the loss all of their belongings, their home, the cleanup process and many other costs.

Contractors have told him it would cost more than $200,000 to make his flooded home livable again -- a home that appraised for only $77,000, he said.

"We have spent countless hours and have felt violated, embarrassed and hopeless and on the phone and sitting in government offices filling out paperwork after paperwork ... only to be denied, or to find out they have lost over 60 pages of our paperwork," Lancaster said.

Lancaster asked commissioners to forward a question for him to those holding onto the funding victims so desperately need.

"If this was your home, if this was your family and you were affected and had nowhere else to go, no place to turn, what would you do differently?" he said.

County Manager Craig Honeycutt said that there is only so much Wayne County can do.

"We understand our citizens' concerns," Honeycutt said. "It is very heartbreaking with what we hear, and we understand the frustration."

However, it is a state program, and Wayne County is kind of a conduit for the money, he said.

County officials have met with Sprayberry on two different occasions within the past few months, he said.

They hear the frustrations, and a fire has been lit under the state to make sure the funds are flowing back to communities, Honeycutt said.

Assistant County Manager Chip Crumpler urged anyone who had damage because of Hurricane Matthew to file for assistance.