FEMA denies Dorian individual assistance in 4 NC counties

Hurricane Dorian Flooding in the Outer Banks (Photo: CBS News)

WILMINGTON, NC (AP) — The federal government has denied individual assistance for residents in four North Carolina counties hit hard by Hurricane Dorian just days after approving other funds to help local governments repair infrastructure, North Carolina’s governor said Wednesday.

Gov. Roy Cooper had sent a letter to the White House last month seeking federal aid for households in Carteret, Dare, Hyde, and New Hanover counties. The individual assistance would have included funds for uninsured expenses including temporary housing, lodging reimbursement and repairs.

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Other federal funds, including assistance for repairing infrastructure and public facilities, were approved last week in a 14-county disaster declaration by President Donald Trump.

The individual assistance was denied in a letter from FEMA dated Tuesday and released by Cooper.

The letter signed by FEMA Associate Administrator Jeff Byard states “it has been determined that the impact to the individuals and households from this event is not of such severity and magnitude to warrant the designation … Therefore, your request for Individual Assistance is denied.”

It also says the denial can be appealed.

“This is disappointing news for families who lost everything in Hurricane Dorian and still need help,” Cooper’s office said in a statement.

Early last month, Dorian skirted North Carolina’s coast, first spinning tornadoes that damaged homes in several North Carolina counties. It then made landfall over Cape Hatteras Sept. 6, whipping the coast with wind gusts as high as 110 mph (177 kph) and pushing storm surge into homes, according to the governor’s office.

Ocracoke Island, in Hyde County, experienced storm surge flooding that swamped homes and necessitated airlifts to take vulnerable people to mainland shelters and bring food and water to those who stayed behind.

Cooper wrote in a Sept. 21 letter to the White House that preliminary assessments found at least 56 structures destroyed and more than another 100 with major damage across the four counties. Three North Carolina deaths were blamed on the storm.

Before the FEMA denial, the Democratic governor had sent a letter urging U.S. Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, both Republicans, to help lobby the Trump administration to grant the individual assistance.

When he granted the public assistance to the 14 counties last week, Trump tweeted that he’d done so at Tillis’ urging. Tillis said last week that he had spoken to the president and they worked together to “cut the red tape” to make funding available to local governments.

U.S. Rep Greg Murphy, a Republican recently elected to a coastal district that includes the Outer Banks, issued a statement Wednesday saying he was disappointed that the individual assistance was denied. He added that “we are committed to working with the Governor to explore all avenues … that will provide relief to those in need as quickly as possible.”

Also Wednesday, Cooper joined with six other governors in signing a letter urging Congress to pass legislation that would streamline and speed up the process for obtaining another type of long-term disaster recovery funding that’s primarily overseen by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.