The Hurricane Matthew recovery effort is a long process tied up in federal red tape, but people who have not applied still need to do so, Gov. Roy Cooper said.
Cooper made his appeal during a brief stopover Tuesday morning at the Wayne County ReBuildNC application center, 209 W. Spruce St.
"I wanted to come by and talk with people in the application center here," Cooper said. "As you know with Hurricane Matthew, people are working very hard to help those who have been damaged to recover.
"The state has worked with the federal government and over $630 million has been distributed in our state -- about $54 million thus far in Wayne County, but we still have a lot to do."
Wayne County has 84 properties that are waiting for recovery funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the hazard mitigation program to either buy them out or help them elevate and rebuild, Cooper said.
"All of the applications are in," he said. "We are hoping to hear from them in a week or so, and by the first of July there could be over $8 million coming to Wayne County."
The Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery fund is also another source of help, and so far about 206 applications have been filed in Wayne County, Cooper said.
"One of the reasons that I am here today is that more people can apply," he said. "Although I know it is a long process with a lot of red tape in Washington and documents to bring in, some people have started their applications, but haven't finished them.
"I am here today to let people know that there is help available to them here at the application center and we want to make sure that they come in and finish their applications or start one if they have not started one yet."
The governor's visit comes just two days prior to a visit from N.C. Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry who will speak at a public meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday night at the Maxwell Center.
During that meeting, the public will have the opportunity to ask questions and receive more information on the Hurricane Matthew recovery process.
Local residents have appeared before Wayne County commissioners in recent weeks to voice frustration at the pace of recovery, laying the blame squarely the state.
They asked for Sprayberry to come to the county to address their concerns.
"First over $630 million has been distributed," Cooper said. "Secondly, help can never come fast enough for people who have been damaged by the hurricane.
"We have to remember when we talk about the Community Development Block Grant relief funds that the legislature, after Hurricane Matthew, decided to take this from the department of commerce and move it to the department of emergency management."
Nationwide, the program is for the most part in departments of commerce, Cooper said.
"In fact, Washington still will only deal with commerce," he said. "So the department of emergency management has had to build this program from the ground up."
However, Cooper said there is no question the program has to move faster.
He said he thinks emergency management is now in the position where it can get on pace and make sure the funding goes to the people who need it.
"I know we have to be faster, and I know people are working to make that happen," he said.
The hope is the buyout/elevation funding will start in July, he said.
Sprayberry has been working with Washington, D.C., and will be able to provide a lot more specific answers to people attending Thursday's meeting, Cooper said.
Cooper said he has talked to a number of residents, as have his staff members.
They have been telling those people that they want to get help to them as quickly as possible, and that people are working hard to get them that money, he said.
"There is also more money available for people who may not have even applied yet," Cooper said. "One of the reasons that I am here today is to publicly let people know they may be eligible for Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery money.
"We want people to know that that is available to them. They need to come in and see if they would qualify and they have to bring in certain documentation."
David Harris and his RMS Harris Associates have been contracted with by Wayne County to manage its hurricane recovery project, which includes the buyout and Community Development Block Grant programs.
That includes the managing of the application intake center.
Before visiting the center, people should visit www.rebuild.nc.gov for a list of the documents that they need to bring with them, Harris said.
The website also provides information about the intake process, he said.
"It would be extremely helpful for them to have as many of those documents as they can that relate to their situation," Harris said. "That way we can go ahead and make that a part of their application.
"We will walk them through the process of completing the application itself."
A two-hour period is set aside for the initial visit. Any follow-up visits don't have to be that long, Harris said.
Staff at the center will help residents in securing the needed documents, he said.
Once completed, the application is submitted to the state, Harris said.
"There are still a lot of people out there because we have seen the list of folks who applied to FEMA after the disaster," Harris said. "It is in the thousands.
"Right now, our applications are a little bit over 200. There are a lot of people out there who were affected who have not come to the center and have not called in. We encourage them to do so. It is not too late."
The center will operate through the summer and fall, he said.
"It will be available to the public as long as it needs to be," Harris said. "But we encourage them, don't wait forever. They need to go ahead and do it, but we will certainly be here if they need us to help them doing applications."
The center, located in the old Farm Services Agency building, is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call 2-1-1 to make an appointment, but walk-ins are welcome, as well, Harris said.
For more information on the grant money, residents can visit www.rebuild.nc.gov or call 2-1-1 to set up an appointment.