1. Avis Rankins and Jennifer Baker walking up to Jennifer's house in Spring Lake
2. Various of volunteers working on ceilings and walls in house
3. SOUNDBITE (English) Carrie Johnson, Spring Lake resident:
"I just don't understand why I couldn't get more money than I got because the little bit of money I got it wouldn't even fix this room I don't think, let alone the back of the house, the rest of the house."
North Carolina hurricane survivors are frustrated with the slow spending of federal long-term housing recovery funds.
A May report from the General Assembly's government watchdog agency showed that federal housing funds for Hurricane Matthew victims were delayed due to administrative mistakes and inexperience. As of July, over two years since Matthew made landfall, about 6% of those funds were spent.
The federal recovery funds for Florence still need to undergo a lengthy process before the state receives them. As displaced Florence survivors wait for these funds, some are working on their homes themselves with the help of volunteer organizations. But, those repairs are not complete fixes to the home, meaning that homes could be more vulnerable in future storms. Many homes are still awaiting repairs.
The heating and air conditioning in Carrie Johnson's home _ damaged by Hurricane Matthew in 2016 _ still wasn't fixed when Hurricane Florence flooded her house last September. Now, the home she lived in for over 50 years is gutted, the flooring and walls nothing more than bare wooden beams smelling faintly of river water.
Estimated damage to the home is over $52,000, she said. The 81-year-old received about $13,000 in short-term federal assistance, but she's not sure what to do next.
"The little bit of money I got, it wouldn't even fix this room, I don't think, let alone the rest of the house," Johnson said.
She's one of many displaced hurricane victims awaiting long-term rebuilding funds _ and they worry that a process utilizing federal funds and overseen by the state could take years.
For many, the next step would be seeking longer-term federal rebuilding funds administered by the state. But based on slow payouts after Matthew, Johnson and others in her position fear the process could take years.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded North Carolina a community block grant of $237 million for Matthew recovery, but as of July the state had spent only about 6%, according to Laura Hogshead, chief operating officer of the state Office of Recovery and Resiliency. By comparison, South Carolina spent 22% of its award for Matthew by December 2018.
Hogshead said South Carolina was already established as a grantee, whereas North Carolina had to apply for grantee status before receiving funds.
HUD spokesman Brian Sullivan declined to comment beyond referring a reporter to online materials that characterize North Carolina as a "slow spender" of its Matthew-related grant.