Seeing the job through

Hurricane Matthew brought immense devastation to eastern North Carolina, with thousands forced from their homes, hundreds of damaged roads, destroyed farms, closed schools, and flooded businesses and community facilities.

Just days after the storm, I toured Robeson, Bladen, and Cumberland counties, detouring around flooded sections of I-95, visiting evacuees at a Red Cross Shelter at South Robeson High School, speaking with Lumberton residents at a water distribution station on Farringdom St., and meeting with local officials in all three counties. Armed with that information, I returned to Washington to help secure $334 million in initial disaster relief funding.

On Monday, I joined Robeson County Sheriff Kenneth Sealy for a tour of neighborhoods still recovering. My goal was to receive the next in a series of eyewitness updates on the continuing aftermath that I will deliver to relevant officials in Washington.

This is why I understand residents’ frustration over recent reports of North Carolina receiving “only” $6.1 million. While Governor Cooper’s letter did not present the entire picture, the plain fact is that North Carolina needs more assistance for a full recovery.

In addition to the $334 million I helped secure in December, North Carolina has also received $750 million from FEMA which didn’t require Congressional approval, for a current total of over $1 billion in federal aid.

Do we need more? Absolutely.

The process of receiving federal disaster aid is quite complex and requires significant data before funds are allocated, and I am committed to seeing it all the way through to assist hurting families.

To address the remaining needs, my staff and I have been in regular contact with FEMA, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Small Business Administration (SBA) to ensure they are using the most up-to-date information when determining additional funding for North Carolina. The $6.1 million figure referenced by Governor Cooper is just an estimate which does not incorporate one month’s worth of new assistance requests. The most recent “Omnibus” spending bill provides an additional $200 million nationwide to account for these types of updates.

Furthermore, I’ve worked extensively with House Appropriations Chairman Randy Frelinghuysen, stressing the need in eastern North Carolina and laying the groundwork to secure additional funds in the next round of appropriations.

As we continue with the recovery process, Hurricane Matthew will remain a top priority for me. Progress requires working together and coordinating at every level, which is why I’m so thankful for the local officials, community leaders, and charities on the ground who have already done so much to help our fellow North Carolinians.

If you have questions about the process of North Carolina receiving federal disaster assistance, or if you need help navigating federal red tape, please call my office at 910-303-0669. We are here to serve.

The week in Washington …

For more than 50 years, Americans have celebrated National Police Week to honor law enforcement officers who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving and protecting our community. Every day, law enforcement officers around the country protect us and enforce our laws. In recognition of National Police Week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Thin Blue Line Act, which adds the murder of a state or local police officer as an “aggravating factor” in determining whether to impose the death penalty in federal cases.

The murder of a federal law enforcement official is already an aggravating factor under current law.

Congressman Robert Pittenger (NC-09) is Chairman of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, Vice Chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance, and serves on the House Financial Services Committee, with a special focus on supporting small businesses, community banks, and credit unions.