Wayne County commissioners Tuesday morning expressed frustration with income tests tied to federal disaster grant funds. So did some of the speakers at the public hearing on the grant.
But the board voted 7-0 to apply for the $25,414,784 in Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Relief funding.
Comments during the hearing ranged from a nonprofit willing to be involved in case management, to getting help clean out a ditch for flood control and to supporting a program to grow vegetables for local residents.
The grant is being funded through the N.C. Division of Emergency Management for activities to assist area citizens in their long-term recovery from Hurricane Matthew.
The proposed project will provide housing benefits to approximately 223 households, 100 percent of whom will be low-to-moderate income, and to approximately 10 small businesses, at least 25 percent of whom will be low-to-moderate income.
The grant will be used for: small rental repair program; multi-family rental repair homeowner recovery, stick built or manufactured that would include rehabilitation, reconstruction, temporary relocation expenses, flood insurance premium, housing repair reimbursement; emergency shelter s generators; renovation Carver Cultural Center in Mount Olive; construction of a Seven Springs Fire Station; flood and drainage improvements; and administration.
Of the households benefiting from flood and drainage improvements and neighborhood facilities, at least 75 percent will be low-to-moderate income.
Also, in order to prevent the owners from selling a property as soon as the work is done, a tax lien is placed on it. The length of the lien depends on the amount of money spent on the property, County Manager George Wood said.
Wayne County will serve as grantee of the project, with Goldsboro and Mount Olive serving as sub-grantees responsible for the administration of project activities within their respective jurisdictions.
No one will be permanently displaced as a result of the proposed project activities, Wood said.
During the hearing Viola Ryals-Figueroa said her family home flooded and that she, her husband and mother live in a FEMA trailer.
She said it is a roof over their heads, but not a home.
Ryals-Figueroa encouraged the board to apply for the grant, but at the same time expressed concern that her mother may be on the cusp of eligibility because of her retirement.
Brent Collins lives in the Hood Drive area of Grantham that experienced historic flooding after Hurricane Matthew last October.
Collins said that shortly after the storm, he and his wife were hurried over to the makeshift Federal Emergency Management Agency office where they had to decide whether to take the buyout or have their house elevated.
They decided they would not go back to their home unless it could be elevated.
Collins said they filled out the paperwork with FEMA and submitted it under the impression their home would be elevated.
Renovations are nearly complete.
"But the issue is everything that we have heard come down from FEMA, from the county -- we were always under the impression our home was going to be elevated, and we were going to be able to get some assistance to elevate our home," Collins said. "Every time a pot of money drops whether it be from the government, these state funds, these federal funds, it seems like for whatever reason we don't make the cutoff.
"Now we are in a home that is almost completed, our dream home. But we now are sitting on pins and needles waiting for the next storm to hit. We are waiting to lose everything again. We have neighbors who have received a buyout but yet we are still not approved for elevation."
Collins said he is a firefighter/EMT on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. It is a single-income family, and while it is a good job, the family still has its struggles.
The poor should be taken care of, but at the same time, what about the people who are healthy and have jobs, he said.
Collins said he does not have the money to elevate the home.
"I do ask you to somehow consider the fact that there are families out there that, yes, they do make money and are able to fend for themselves," he said. "But they still need assistance as well."
Collins said he feels as if he had been mislead about receiving money to elevate his house.
Collins said he had $250,000 in flood insurance, but had received $220,000 because the appraiser was under the impression the family would get money for the elevation project.
Commissioner Joe Daughtery said he was frustrated that FEMA leads people to believe their homes will be elevated.
So rather than build elsewhere, people are renovating because they think they will receive money to have their homes elevated, he said.
Commissioner Joe Gurley pointed out that FEMA uses temporary, part-time workers who may not know all of the ins and outs of what can and cannot be done.
"This what I don't understand about the process," Commissioner Wayne Aycock said. "This gentleman has a job. He has an income and is being said no to. That is the part that I don't understand.
"I know it is government regulations, but I just don't understand why a person who draws a paycheck and a person who doesn't draw a paycheck -- if they were flooded and lost everything, what is the difference?"
Wood and County Planner Chip Crumpler reminded commissioner and those at the meeting that Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Relief is for the most part a program for low-to-moderate income people.
FEMA is need-based, not income-based, they said.