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Saturday May 27th

Budget deal promises millions for hurricane damage relief

<p>A home in Windsor airs out along with all its contents after it was hit in 2016 by Hurricane Matthew.&nbsp;</p>
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A home in Windsor airs out along with all its contents after it was hit in 2016 by Hurricane Matthew. 

U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-NC, and U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-NC, announced in a press release Thursday there would be an additional $125 million from the recent budget deal for North Carolina’s recovery from Hurricane Matthew, which hit the state in 2016.

The announcement came the day before Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed into law the two-year budget agreement. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 included the word “hurricane” a total of 115 times – appropriating funds to various government recipients to mitigate the effects of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, along with other hurricane and wildfire-related disasters.

The agreement provides about $100 million for Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funding, which goes to local needs, including housing, infrastructure and jobs. The agreement also provides about $25.5 million in Federal Highway Administration funds for repair.

The funds will be added to the $236.5 million that North Carolina members of Congress secured in past spending bills; $198.5 million came from the Dec. 9, 2016 continuing resolution, and $37.96 million came from the May 5, 2017 continuing resolution.

Tillis said in the press release that he and Burr have been working with the rest of North Carolina’s members of Congress to continue the recovery efforts, and he expressed gratitude to Senate leaders and appropriators.

Burr added the budget agreement’s funds will allow the state and the effected communities to not only rebuild but take steps to lessen the effects of future storms.

In Windsor, a small town on the eastern side of the state, the recovery process has been slow, Scott Sauer, the Bertie County manager said. He said the biggest project right now is replacing the twice-flooded ambulance station. While the county received aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and from the state, it's still coming up hundreds of thousands of dollars short.

“It’s painstaking slow, particularly for the families that were impacted and lost their homes," Sauer said. "The hazard mitigation money was announced almost 12 months ago and it’s just been very slow to look through the processes both in Raleigh and in Washington. We’re coming up on 18 months since the storm.”

Sandrika Freeman, a UNC first-year from Windsor, said progress is steadily being made to reconstruct Bertie County back to the county is was before the disaster.

“During my last visit to Bertie, I couldn’t tell that a hurricane had occurred because the recovery has been remarkable,” she said.

Freeman said the community is more united, even though many businesses have left and not returned.

“I think the biggest challenge in the recovery process was the financial burden it placed on families and businesses that lost belongings during the hurricane,” she said.

LuAnn Joyner, spokesperson for the Vidant Bertie Hospital, said the town has almost completed the clean-up efforts after the hurricane. She said the majority of the residential and commercial areas are nearing good shape if they’re not there already — all while adapting to new circumstances.

Joyner said in the past the town has received funds from various sources that have helped mitigate the effects of the hurricane.

“The (Bipartisan Budget Act) is just a huge cherry on (top of) the funding,” she said.

Now that Windsor is working to put the finishing touches on the recovery efforts, Joyner said people are feeling better about the situation. 

“Windsor and Bertie County are a resilient area and a resilient town,” she said. “These folks are determined to stay here and make the best of it.”


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