LUMBERTON — Robeson County has great challenges ahead as hurricane rescue and response turns into relief and recovery.
With more than 5,000 people displaced and 7,000 structures affected by flooding in Robeson County, housing the victims of Hurricane Matthew in the short and long term will be an ongoing project after the natural disaster.
“We are in the process of response, families that live out of the state are calling in, wanting to check on the well-being of their families. We are sending crews out. Once we go through the response process — lights are restored, water is restored — then we will move into the the recovery process,” Stephanie Chavis, Robeson County emergency management director, said. “That is when we have to meet certain criteria in order to receive FEMA funding.”
After approval from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the process for individuals to file disaster-related claims will be expedited, as will the process for bringing in transitional housing for those in need.
“I talked with President Obama yesterday, again, and explained the situation to him. And he is working extremely well with us,” Gov. Pat McCrory said Wednesday in Robeson County. “And FEMA is going to be working well with us. There might be some transitional housing going on in this area, we might have to go to hotels for a while, then possibly into FEMA housing, but we are going to move on that as quickly as we can. There are a lot of logistic issues as comes to housing.”
McCrory named housing as one of his administration’s top priorities for the recovery effort moving forward. Saturday, the governor re-emphasized this, stressing that the process would be a long one.
“It’s not going to be a quick fix,” McCrory said in a morning press conference. “This is going to be, I think, the major challenge for the next several weeks.”
Moving refugees out of shelters has no time frame on it. Kellie Blue, spokesperson for county emergency management, said people will be moved out of shelters “as fast as we can.” On Saturday, 1,125 people were in county shelters, down from about 1,800.
FEMA programs offered to victims of other recent floods included:
— Rental assistance. This is the most common form of financial assistance for temporary housing. It is usually put toward renting a house or an apartment. But survivors may also use rental assistance to rent a recreational vehicle
— FEMA transitional housing assistance. This program provides lodging to displaced survivors who need a place immediately. FEMA pays the hotel/motels directly; money is disbursed to survivors for this, according to information from the agency
— The Shelter at Home program. The program coordinates the repairs to homes that have sufferdc less than $15,000 worth of damage. This program, which was state co-sponsored earlier this year in Louisianan, helps families stay in their homes while repairs are ongoing.
— Manufactured Housing Units program. FEMA will provide mobile homes for up to 18 months to eligible applicants. Unlike the old FEMA trailers, these mobile homes are built according to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development standards.
— Multi-Family Lease and Repair Program. In this program, FEMA identifies larger scale rental property currently not on the market where the property owner, with some financial assistance, can make the property ready to rent within two months. The property owner agrees to make these rentals available to eligible FEMA applicants.
If you have suffered flood damage and wish to look into FEMA assistance go to DisasterAssistance.gov or call 800-621-2232. Those seeking information about disaster assistance can also dial 211 for information from federal agencies including FEMA.
Michael Gellatly can be reached on Twitter @MikeGellatly.