RALEIGH, N.C. – Today, Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) joined leaders at the N.C. General Assembly, including Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, Speaker Tim Moore, State Senators Harry Brown and Danny Britt, and the Co-Chairs of the House Select Committee on Disaster Relief John Bell and Brenden Jones to discuss the state administration’s slow pace of federal assistance to the victims of Hurricane Matthew.
Tillis announced he will be introducing The Ensuring Disaster Recovery For Local Communities Act in the U.S. Senate to address the unacceptably slow distribution of federal assistance and to take concrete steps to empower local communities and streamline the process for future allocations following natural disasters.
Tillis’ legislation is based on findings from the N.C. General Assembly’s Program Evaluation Division report from earlier this year, which outlined administrative missteps and lack of expertise which has led to major delays in spending for Hurricane Matthew recovery. The report noted that the expertise of local governments, including “entitlement communities” was not utilized by the state government in administering CDBG-DR funds, and that the state scrapped its original plan to rely heavily on counties and instead opted for a more state-centric plan. In explaining the main causes for the slow pace of administering the funding, the report notes that “several counties contend they could have implemented CDBG-DR themselves, particularly as they felt they had more knowledge of CDBG than DPS.”
To help make sure North Carolina families and their communities receive the federal assistance they were promised in a timely manner, The Ensuring Disaster Recovery For Local Communities Act sets tangible spending goals for grantees (usually state administrations) and allows cities and counties to request HUD to allocate the federal assistance directly to them when the state fails to distribute those funds in a timely manner (after an 18-month period).
Additionally, to assist North Carolina families still waiting to receive “buyout” assistance, Tillis’ legislation directs the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to undertake a comprehensive review of property acquisition or “buyout” programs administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and make recommendations on how to streamline and expedite delivery of funds to storm survivors.
Senators Tillis and Richard Burr led the North Carolina Congressional Delegation’s successful effort to secure long-term recovery funding in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Matthew’s path of destruction. Tillis and Burr also led the delegation’s efforts to secure Hurricane Florence funding, and successfully fought for a provision signed into law in June that would allow the state of North Carolina to use Hurricane Matthew and Hurricane Florence assistance interchangeably, giving the state more flexibility for the many communities that were hit by both historic storms.
However, as of August 2019, the state administration has only allocated 7% of its CDBG-DR funds for Hurricane Matthew recovery efforts. As a result, North Carolina has been consistently designated as a “slow spender” by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“Too many North Carolinians are hurting because of the state administration’s unacceptably slow pace of allocating federal Hurricane Matthew recovery resources to local communities. Long-term efforts to help North Carolinians rebuild and get their lives back on track cannot continue to be delayed as the result of inaction,” said Senator Tillis. “That’s why I’m introducing legislation that will bypass the existing state roadblock in order to get assistance to families, small businesses, and local communities sooner.”
The Ensuring Disaster Recovery For Local Communities Act
Despite repeated promises made by the state administration over the last two years to deliver CDBG-DR funds to communities devastated by Hurricane Matthew, the vast majority of the assistance has yet to reach them.
To ensure federal assistance for Hurricane Matthew and all future disaster assistance flows to North Carolina victims and communities faster, Senator Tillis’ legislation will implement the following reforms:
- Directs the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to set spending goal thresholds for state grantees to hit on six months intervals, creating tangible spending metrics for the public and impacted storm survivors to hold grantees accountable.
- Ensures local communities have access to federal disaster assistance by allowing them to request to take over funds as a subgrantee when a state grantee fails to spend funds in a timely manner after an 18-month span as prescribed by HUD.
- Local communities can adopt the state grantee’s HUD-approved Action Plan to further expedite relief. For communities that do not yet have a capacity to administer CDBG funds, HUD would provide each community with technical assistance, including a HUD detailee, to provide training and ensure those communities have the capacity to administer the funds.
Because Senator Tillis’ legislation is retroactive, it would immediately grant HUD the authority to distribute the CDBG-DR funding to local communities in North Carolina that have yet to receive their assistance.
Tillis will formally introduce The Ensuring Disaster Assistance For Local Communities Act as soon as the Senate is back in session early next month.