The NC General Assembly and the federal government have appropriated hundreds of millions in Hurricane Matthew relief funds for eastern North Carolina. However, to date there are still people who were affected by the storm that still need help.
Playing politics with people’s lives and well-being does not help them. Gov. Roy Cooper has done just that, criticizing Congress and the Trump Administration for not doing enough to help victims of Hurricane Matthew, while refusing to acknowledge what they have done.
In North Carolina, investigative reporting by Nick Ochsner of WBT has spawned questions surrounding the money that has been appropriated. Specifically, in Ochsner’s report, $200 million was appropriated by the General Assembly. Where did the money go and why hasn’t $100 million of it been spent yet?
The $200 million was allocated in a special session of the General Assembly in December 2016. Ochsner’s report quotes Goldsboro Mayor Chuck Allen as saying that he has yet to see that money. “If we have, I don’t know it,” Allen said. “I’m not going to tell you we haven’t but, to my knowledge, I don’t think much of the state money has been spent yet. I do know that the new governor, Governor Cooper, and his secretary (of public safety) were here and they said, you know, ‘We’re going to work on getting the program together.’ That’s been a few months ago.”
Ochsner goes on to report that Office of State Budget and Management details that roughly half of the $200 million has been spent or earmarked for specific needs. He also reports that Mike Sprayberry, director of emergency management, said that his agency has spent nearly half of the $200 million in five months.
Kinston Mayor BJ Murphy said that from a local government perspective the state does not seem to have spent enough of the money that has been earmarked, or done so very aggressively. But he also would like to change the narrative.
Murphy said, “We’re wanting the conversation to start shifting from, ‘Do we need $900 million or not?’ to, ‘How do we get the federal and state government on the same page about flood prevention?’ because this is going to happen again.”
Murphy continued that, rather than bickering about dollar amounts, it is time to “start putting efforts into building a dam or dredging the river.”
Recently Gov. Roy Cooper took to the media to criticize Republicans in Congress and the Trump administration for not approving more federal aid for the state’s storm victims. On May 10, Cooper posted a press release on the governor’s website a statement that expressed his disappointment in the Department of Housing and Urban Development supposedly responding with $6.1 million to a request that had been made for $600 million. “Families across Eastern North Carolina need help to rebuild and recover, and it is an incredible failure by the Trump Administration and Congressional leaders to turn their backs,” said Cooper.
However, standing alone, this statement is misleading. It does not acknowledge the hundreds of millions in relief money that have already gone toward Hurricane Matthew relief in eastern North Carolina. Now, billboards are being bought attacking the Trump administration. If the organization buying the billboards really cared about the victims of the hurricane, perhaps they would spend the money used to buy billboard space on relief efforts, instead.
Following Cooper’s statement, wncn.com reported that a spokesman for Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) issued a statement which said, “The bipartisan North Carolina congressional delegation worked to secure more than $300 million in federal assistance for Hurricane Matthew and is committed to making sure the people of North Carolina have the resources they need for hurricane recovery. Hurricane recovery has always been and should continue to be above partisan finger-pointing. Senator Burr encourages both Democrat and Republican leaders to work together to ensure that those suffering as a result of a natural disaster get the support they need.”
On May 12, nsjonline.com reported that Sen. Thom Tillis also responded to Cooper’s statement, via an email sent to the press. The statement said, “N.C. received more than $750 million as of April 4 from various federal agencies that did not require Congressional approval. Furthermore, more than $334 million in recovery funds were approved by Congress in December. Last year, Sen. Tillis worked closely with the North Carolina delegation to secure more than $330 million in federal funds to assist North Carolina in the Hurricane Matthew recovery efforts, funds that will be used to help rebuild homes, roads and infrastructure.”
Regardless of the pace at which money that has been appropriated is spent, or whether enough has been appropriated, playing politics with the needs of folks devastated by a hurricane or other disaster does not help those victims.
Leftists love to get their cohorts in the media involved their schemes. First, Cooper criticizes Trump and Congress. The media blasts headlines leading the reader to believe that Trump and Congress have done nothing. Next, take the issue to a billboard and try to further fire people up over something that is being misrepresented. HUD may not have responded the way they were asked to, but the Left is blowing the issue up for political advantage, intentionally leaving out what the Trump administration and Congress have done. Again, that does not help the victims of Hurricane Matthew.