Jun 26 2019

It’s been over eight months since Hurricane Florence made landfall and left a trail of destruction behind, claiming the lives of forty-three North Carolinians and causing billions of dollars of damage.
In the midst of such devastation, we also witnessed the best of North Carolina, including the heroic and life-saving efforts of first responders, the generous assistance of neighbors helping fellow neighbors, and strong leadership from local, state, and federal officials who organized effective recovery efforts.
Representing the victims of Hurricane Florence, we immediately got to work with several of our colleagues, including Senator Richard Burr, to press Congressional leaders and appropriators on our state’s funding needs.
Last October, only 10 days after Florence made landfall, we succeeded in securing an initial down payment to begin North Carolina’s long recovery process, which included $1.6 billion in Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program funding that localities will use to rebuild damaged homes and infrastructure.
While this assistance was badly needed, we knew that North Carolina needed more, which is why we never relented in our efforts behind the scenes to secure additional resources.
Earlier this month, we saw that hard work pay off as Congress finally broke through the partisan gridlock to pass $19.1 billion in additional disaster assistance for North Carolina and other states ravaged by recent natural disasters, which includes critical assistance for North Carolina’s families, farmers, and military community.
One provision we added to the bill expedites the recovery process by giving North Carolina the ability to interchangeably use recovery funds from Hurricane Matthew for Hurricane Florence and vice-versa.
Additionally, we previously secured $168 million in Hurricane Matthew funding to allow our state to mitigate the impacts of future storms. In order to streamline access to these resources, we successfully fought to include language requiring the Department of Housing and Urban Development to release the $168 million owed to the state within the next ninety days.
To assist North Carolina’s farming community reeling from the havoc caused by flooding, $3 billion in disaster assistance is also on the way. Through this program, farmers will have access to resources to cover losses not protected by crop insurance or other agriculture assistance programs. Additionally, Congress included $150 million in fishery disaster assistance for our seafood industry to offset the economic harm caused by Hurricane Florence.
To rebuild our military installations and communities, we worked with appropriators to include $381 million to repair damaged Marine Corps installations, including Camp Lejeune and Cherry Point, $600 million for Navy and Marine Corps military construction for planning and design, $42.4 million for Army National Guard construction to replace facilities at Fort Fisher, and finally $57 million for repairs and upgrades at North Carolina’s Coast Guard facilities.
Our shoreline and coastal communities are often the hardest hit and serve as our first line of defense from devastating hurricanes. Following both Hurricanes Matthew and Florence, our river systems and coastal waterways are in dire need of clearing and further study. To ensure we learn from our mistakes and mitigate future flooding from storm events, we worked closely with Senator Burr to secure funding for the U.S. Army Corps to study and build high-priority flood and storm damage reduction projects and repair existing coastal storm damage reduction projects also known as beach renourishment projects.
While much of North Carolina’s rebuild is well underway, these additional federal resources will further safeguard North Carolina’s long-term recovery efforts.
Our priority now is to oversee the federal agencies tasked with administering these funds to ensure resources are delivered to the state in timely manner and find ways to mitigate the damage from future storms. We will also do our part to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself: petty, partisan politics should never get in the way of getting the federal disaster assistance North Carolinians need and deserve.
Thom Tillis is a U.S. Senator from North Carolina. Wilmington’s David Rouzer represents the 7th District in the U.S. House.