US Rep. Robert Pittenger tours Matthew damage in Bladen Co., talks funding

BLADEN COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Hurricane season starts tomorrow, but there are still plenty of people trying to recover and rebuild after the devastation of Hurricane Matthew nearly eight months ago.

Today, some of them got a visit from a member of Congress.

Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-9th District) rode around with Bladen County Emergency Services Director Bradley Kinlaw to take a look at some of the areas still trying to re-build.

“Several hundred homes here are abandoned,” Pittenger said. “They can’t be lived in any longer.”

Kinlaw said about 70 families are still displaced from their homes.

“A lot of folks that are out of their homes are still paying mortgages or having to rent places at the same time,” Kinlaw said.

He said another problem is trying to clean out the fallen trees covering almost the entire width of parts of the rivers and creeks.

“So when this heavy precipitation does come it can drain out,” Kinlaw said.

Kinlaw said the ongoing challenge is trying to get financial help.

“FEMA did help soon after the hurricane, but that’s just not enough,” Kinlaw said.

In April, Governor Roy Cooper requested more than $900 million for help from Congress, but only got $6.1 million. Pittenger said there is more to that.

“We’ve had $334 million appropriated last December in our budget. Plus, there is another $750 million that was also appropriated as well,” Pittenger said.

He said it has been a slow process, but the areas still damaged should start seeing that money in the next couple of months.

“How will the people see that money?”

“It’s going to be seen in infrastructure,” Pittenger said. “It’s going to be seen in roads, also, of course, to support the restoration of homes.”

Pittenger said they are also working on a pipeline of $198 million to help the state and more money from the 2018 budget.

“So we’re not done yet,” Pittenger said. “That’s why I’m here.”

Kinlaw said he just hopes the folks in Washington take time to look at the data on what exactly they are still dealing with across Bladen County.

“To see exactly what our needs are and how much it’s going to take to help these Bladen County citizens get back on their feet,” Kinlaw said.

Kinlaw said the county has submitted about 55 projects for the Hazard Mitigation Project Grant which is about $125 million. He said they should be hearing back about their application in the next day or two.

Categories: Bladen, Local

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