LUMBERTON — The big question on the minds of everyone who attended the Robeson County Hurricane Matthew Community Update on Thursday was, “When will money for Hurricane Matthew recovery reach Robeson County?”
A clear answer was not forthcoming at the Community Update sponsored by the North Carolina Legislative Black Caucus. The hosts were Reps. Charles Graham and Garland Pierce, both of whom represent Robeson County.
“Hopefully we will find some solutions that we can use when we get back to Raleigh,” Pierce said at the opening of the two-hour session.
Graham echoed Pierce’s remark.
“We know there is still a lot of suffering and discomfort,” he said. “We want to share information we have at this point.”
About 50 people, including local, county and state officials involved in Hurricane Mathew recovery efforts were present to learn firsthand from county residents their experiences during and in the aftermath of the storm that ravaged the county this past October.
Caucus President Sen. Angela Bryant, of Nash County, moderated the event that took place at Sandy Grove Missionary Baptist Church on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Lumberton. Among those providing information and updates was Joe Stanton, assistant director for recovery for N.C. Emergency Management; Jan Maynor, a member of Gov. Roy Cooper’s Hurricane Matthew Recovery Team; Kasey Ginsburg and Ted Lord, with the state Golden LEAF Foundation; David Richardson, Lumber River Council of Governments executive director; and Robeson County Manager Ricky Harris.
Stanton provided an update on programs administered through N.C.Emergency Management. These programs included Individual Assistance, Public Assistance and Hazard Mitigation.
Stanton said there is no truth to the statements circulating throughout the county that Hazard Mitigation money has already been given to the county or the city of Lumberton.
“The county has received no money,” he said. “We (state) have not even received any money from FEMA.”
Stanton praised the cooperative efforts between various agencies and nonprofits working to help Robeson County recover from the hurricane.
“We use this county to tell others how things should be done,” he said. “It’s going to take time, but we are going to build a better community.”
Lumberton Councilman John Cantey questioned why it is taking so long to get the financial aid needed by Lumberton property owners to rebuild.
“It’s been a year and people are displaced and misplaced all over the place,” Cantey said. “… What about using money from the Rainy Day Fund? I’m not talking about using a lot of money from that fund. Maybe just $20 million to $30 million. We been waiting over a year and we can’t take it anymore.”
Stanton replied that attempts are being made to expedite the process.
The representatives from the LRCOG, Golden LEAF Foundation and other agencies explained what programs are available and how to apply.
“I know it is hard, but you have to be patient,” Maynor said.
The Rev. Mac Legerton, executive director of the Center for Community Action in Lumberton, charged that the hurricane recovery process being followed by the county and the state is flawed.
“There are 11 agencies with separate recovery systems,” he said. “We need these agencies to get together. There is not one agency that can tell you who all the survivors are, what services they received, and what services they now need.”
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.