$ 124.4 million for the recovery of Tropical Storm Fred in WNC counties


The newly inked North Carolina state budget sends $ 124.4 million in recovery funds to 11 counties in western North Carolina devastated by the Tropical Depression Fred attack, an event that has killed six people, destroyed hundreds of houses and destroyed local infrastructure in mid-August.

Under a two-year budget bill signed by Governor Roy Cooper on November 18, storm recovery money is limited to affected WNC counties including Avery, Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Rutherford, Transylvania, Watauga and Yancey.

A significant portion of the $ 124 million credit will go towards supplementing what the Federal Emergency Management Agency money does not cover and will focus on things such as rebuilding houses, meeting temporary housing needs. , restoration of agricultural land and replacement of damaged EMS equipment.

Wrecks of houses in Cruso washed up along the roads on Thursday, August 19, 2021.

According to a FEMA webpage dedicated to supporting Fred, – last updated Nov 23 – the agency has so far approved $ 3.3 million in payments to individual and family programs based on 710 individual assistance requests approved.

A FEMA press release from Nov. 10 said: “Two months after the declaration of a major disaster, more than $ 18 million in federal grants, loans and flood insurance payments have been approved for homeowners. , tenants and businesses in Buncombe, Haywood and Transylvania counties. “

FEMA’s external affairs office, in an email November 23, gave the Citizen Times a current breakdown of payment data for those three counties.

Buncombe County has 218 approved registrations totaling $ 608,879; Haywood County has 464 approved registrations totaling over $ 2.6 million; and Transylvania County has 28 approved registrations with $ 127,844.

Following:Tropical Depression Fred’s sweep on the WNC has been declared a federal disaster; FEMA help is coming

The Department of Public Safety’s Emergency Division will get $ 72 million of the overall $ 124 million, which will then be broken down into nine different categories allocated to other recovery agencies and projects.

“The budget has just gone down and it’s going to take us a minute to figure this money out and figure out how to best allocate it,” Brian Haines, communications manager for DPS emergency management, said on 23 November when he was told. asked how the allocation process would work. “I’m sure there will probably be rules.”

Leadership discussions on how to allocate are already underway, he added. “It will take time because it is a lot of money.”

At $ 20 million, rebuilding homes not covered by FEMA money takes the biggest chunk of DPS money.

The next four most important categories include:

  • $ 16 million to federal State Match Fund disaster assistance programs.
  • $ 15 million for the repair and replacement of private roads and bridges.
  • $ 10 million for a grant program to provide grants to local government units for unmet needs related to FEMA’s public assistance program.
  • $ 4 million for trailers and short-term housing assistance needed for temporary housing related to rebuilding homes ineligible for federal disaster assistance programs.

Other large salvage payments from Fred include $ 50 million to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for the crop crop loss program and $ 1.9 million to the rail division of the Department of Transportation for a grant. to the Blue Ridge Southern Railroad for recovery and repair operations.

“Fred funds (…) are important because often state funding is easier and faster for people to access than federal funding,” Senator Julie Mayfield said in an email on November 23. Mayfield voted for the bill and pointed to the $ 124 million as just one of his strengths.

“There may also be fewer restrictions on how state money can be used,” she said. “Indeed, the wording of the budget document indicates that the funds for rebuilding houses are intended for houses that were not eligible for federal aid.”

Buncombe County Commissioners said these incoming clawback funds had not yet been part of the public debate, but likely will be in the near future.

“We have seen that we are getting the money,” Commissioner Al Whitesides said on November 22. “But… we don’t even know how much it is.

“Once we find out,” he added, “we are determined to be transparent.”

Buncombe County Board of Trustees Chairman Brownie Newman said on November 23 that he would be interested to see how the county can use the funds to manage the ongoing recovery efforts.

He said the Buncombe government had already spent around $ 500,000 of its own general fund on things like damaged roads and driveways. It also funds the removal of debris from the river.

One way the state funding could help would be to recoup the county’s expenses, Newman said. But there are also unresolved needs.

“We set a very narrow scope of what our funds could be spent on because there has been a lot of damage, big and small, all over the county,” Newman said. “So we set criteria that indicated that we wanted to focus on some of them. The low-income neighborhoods that have been affected where people don’t have homeowners associations that could help.

Haywood County staff did not immediately respond to questions about spending and recovery needs on November 22 and 23.

In September, Haywood County spokeswoman Allison Richmond told the Citizen Times that 687 homes in Haywood County suffered damage from the storm.

If any of the $ 124 million is not spent by November 1, 2026, the money will flow back to the state’s Disaster Relief and Mitigation Fund, according to the budget.

Andrew Jones is a Buncombe County government and health care reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA TODAY Network. Follow him or contact him at @arjonesreports on Facebook and Twitter. Email him at [email protected]


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