More than one year after Hurricane Matthew, some Bladen County folks are still without homes.
“I never imagined there’d be this much red tape,” Bladen County Emergency Services Director Bradley Kinlaw commented. “Here we are a year later, and we haven’t helped these people. That’s unacceptable to me. But I’m not the one with the money.”
Kinlaw noted many people who had good homeowners’ or flood insurance were able to make repairs themselves.
“The majority of those folks are back in their home or well on their way to it,” the director stated.
The opposite is true, however, for those still needing government assistance to make repairs. Of the 54 initial applications for the kind of funding Kinlaw was referencing, eight have received help, and they just were only just notified recently.
“It’s hard to say how many people there are,” said Kinlaw. “Some of the people that applied for funding, when we’ve called them over the last few weeks to touch base and let them know we have funding, they either, one, already completed the renovations needed and were back in their home, or two, saw where they could not afford to make a mortgage payment and pay rent at the same time, so they let their house go to the bank.”
The hold-up seems to be with large sums of money.
Many of the families still awaiting funds need major renovations, home elevations, or a government purchase. According to Kinlaw, elevating a home can run approximately $75,000, or the government might just decide to purchase the property from the homeowner. In the latter case, which can even run $150,000, the goal is to get the homeowners a house out of the flood zone, while the government demolishes the home. The property would then be turned over to the county, which would be required to maintain the property as a green area in perpetuity, and the federal government doesn’t have to worry about funding a flooded home on that site ever again.
With numbers that large, the process is a slow one.
“It’s a very long, drawn-out, and confusing process,” Kinlaw commented.
One of the reasons it’s been difficult for Emergency Services to keep track of numbers is because of the addition of more and more applicants.
“We initially had 54 applications, and when we put out a notice that we had received additional funding, we got 50 more applications that we hadn’t heard from the first time,” Kinlaw stated. “I don’t know where they came from. Our initial calculations were that 100 to 125 homes flooded.”
Of the funding received to date, the initial round was federal money, followed by two rounds of state funding that have been released.
“I anticipate more funding, but I can’t tell how many, or who, or what the money will be used for,” he said. “We don’t get to pick who gets help; the state decides, and they have a formula about income, the value of the property, that kind of thing.”
He added, “I think we’ve turned a corner though. I’m hoping to notify some more folks over the next month or so.”
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.