The frustration over the pace of Hurricane Matthew disaster relief that spilled over at the Wayne County commissioners May 15 meeting has reached state N.C. Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry.
Sprayberry will speak at a public meeting from 6 to 8p.m. June 14 at the Maxwell Center.
"I can tell you, I understand what I am going to be walking into on June 14," he said. "We understand that for disaster survivors, you can never move fast enough."
During the meeting, the public will have the opportunity to ask questions and receive more information on the Hurricane Matthew recovery process.
"We are very appreciative that Mr. Sprayberry is willing to come to Wayne County to hear directly the concerns of our citizens," County Manager Craig Honeycutt said. "We hope by doing this, it will move the recovery process along at a quicker rate."
There could be some good news for the 84 buyout projects in the county totaling more than $8 million.
Also, N.C. Department of Public Safety communications officer Julie Jarema said she has been told that some funding through the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Relief program is expected in June and July, as well.
But that does not mean everyone will get a check at the same time from the program that provides funding to help flood victims rebuild.
Jarema said she has been told that some reimbursement checks already have been mailed.
"We think we might see some (buyout) awards in the June and July time frame," Sprayberry said. "One of the things that I have got to say is they are going through review and that implies that everything for the review -- that there are no issues with them.
"You are talking hundreds of applications, but we feel like we submitted some pretty good grant applications."
The Federal Emergency Management Agency sent requests for information for a few of the buyout applications, but Sprayberry said he thinks most of the applications are good, solid packages.
"We don't think there are going to be any issues," he said. "Most of them, as of right now, have gone through everything except for tribal review, which is a requirement from the federal government on tribes like the Lumbee Indians. (There are) a number of different tribes."
There are a lot of different programs involved and it is understandable how they can be confusing to the survivors caught in the midst of it, Jarema said.
"The reality is, more than $630 million has been already on the ground helping survivors," she said.
"Some of that has been with the FEMA individual assistance program. Some of that money has come through flood insurance."
It can never happen fast enough for survivors, and unfortunately it is a process that includes local, state and federal review, she said.
"Everybody wants to make sure that their taxpayer dollars are well spent and not wasted," Jarema said. "There are certain qualification and requirements for each program."
There are 17 different programs that spread across more than one agency, she said.
"We understand that it is frustrating," she said.
During the May 15 commissioners meeting, some residents questioned why North Carolina was so slow in distributing funding while other states, such as South Carolina, had already done so.
South Carolina has a much smaller program that is mainly for rural counties, Sprayberry said.
"Their CDBG-DR money went to larger cities and counties to be managed by their larger cities and counties," he said. "The other thing is that they stood up their program a year earlier than we did because of Hurricane Joaquin.
"So when Hurricane Matthew hit, they were already in business."
Joaquin caused catastrophic flooding in South Carolina.
North Carolina had to develop the program, get federal approval, then start to implement it after Matthew, while South Carolina had already done that in the fall of 2015, Jarema said.
It is a complex grant process, and the state emergency management department wrote the grants for local governments in an attempt to streamline and expedite the process, Jarema said.
Adding to the lengthy process is that following Hurricane Floyd in 1999, the state was not required to perform a cost-benefit analysis, Sprayberry said.
"It is required now and basically compared to Irene, which is where you are comparing apples to apples, we are actually six to eight months faster than we were with Irene," he said.
"As a matter of fact, FEMA thinks we are moving pretty fast. But again we understand that for disaster survivors, you can never move fast enough."
Renee Hinson, whose home on Hood Drive in the Grantham community was submerged by floodwaters in October 2016, was among storm victims who packed the Tuesday, May 15, meeting of the Wayne County commissioners to voice their frustration and anger.
After the meeting, the residents gathered outside the meeting room and formed a private Facebook page called Hurricane Matthew Victims Seeking Answers.
The purpose of the group forming was and is to unite with one another, hear each other's stories of what we all have been through and be a support team for each other -- to work together and take a firm stand to fight for what is right for each family, Hinson said at that time.
In an interview this past week, Hinson said that she and Amy Lancaster have had many phone calls since the News-Argus article about the commissioners meeting.
"People are giving us their phone numbers, people that are not on social media," she said. "People are being thankful that somebody was finally taking a stand to be that voice for others that are not able or maybe do not know how to speak out.
"We have helped people by giving information on where to apply for the grant money and information on any upcoming meetings."
Anyone with a Facebook page is asked to join the group through Hinson's Facebook page, or through Lancaster.
Anyone who does not have a Facebook page can call Hinson at 919-440-1459 or Lancaster at 919-223-0422.
For residents seeking assistance, an application must be completed to be eligible to receive money under the Community Development Block Grant for Disaster Recovery.
Anyone who is seeking recovery money and has not yet started the application process should do so as soon as possible, county officials 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.