RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — With Hurricane Ian’s potential to impact North Carolina this week, survivors of recent hurricanes are watching closely as they question why it’s taking so long to repair and rebuild their homes.
Viola Ryals Figueroa lives in Goldsboro in a trailer on the same property where her childhood home sits empty. Hurricane Matthew damaged it in 2016 when the storm brought historic flooding to the state.
“Some days I try not to look and then some days the reality hits me and I’m angry with the government,” she said. “This is ridiculous.”
She’s been working with the North Carolina Office of Recovery and Resiliency, trying to manage the process to get a new home built on the property. Her 77-year-old mother, who lived in the home, is staying in an apartment waiting for the work to be done.
The items they were able to salvage are sitting in storage containers which were brought to the property earlier this year. She said contractors came to the house late last year, but she still doesn’t know when work will start.
“Am I hopeful that eventually (it will be done)? Yes. But, I don’t want to be one of those that says I wish my mom could have seen her house,” she said.
State lawmakers held a hearing about the issue earlier this month, questioning why people affected by Hurricane Matthew and also by Hurricane Florence in 2018 are still not in permanent housing.
The federal government has allocated about $780 million for the state to respond to those storms and help families recover.
The state set up the North Carolina Office of Recovery and Resiliency to manage that process.
“Let’s be frank. We know why we are here. This recovery is not going as you want it to go. It is not going as I want it to go. It is certainly not going as the families sitting behind me and out in eastern North Carolina want it to go. And, that is on me,” said Laura Hogshead, director of NCORR, told state legislators on Sept. 14. “And, I am not in any way shirking that responsibility. These are my decisions. These are my staffing decisions. These are my policy decisions. And, that is on me.”
Hogshead said the agency has made several changes aimed at simplifying the qualifying process for homeowners and for contractors to be eligible to participate and be paid as well. Additionally, she said the agency is bringing its case management services in-house instead of contracting with vendors.
NCORR has received 4,197 applications. Among those, 789 of those projects are completed. Hogshead said for 1,146 of them, the agency is still trying to find a contractor to take on the project or they’re waiting for the contractor to begin.
Figueroa says she has personally told Gov. Roy Cooper (D) about the situation, most recently seeing him Tuesday at an event in Raleigh.
“To know that another hurricane can come six years later as strong as it could possibly be, it’s scary and it’s frightful because we still haven’t gotten the help that we need,” she said.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Gov. Cooper said the state has worked to get more than 10,000 people back into their homes.
“There’s still work to be done. With the pandemic, there was some slowing down of the supply chain and construction. But, NCORR is moving to make some improvements and get people back into their home as quickly as possible,” he said.
Figueroa said it’s not happening quickly enough.
“The way we’ve been treated, it’s ridiculous. There’s no way, no way, by 2025 they’re going to have all of us back into a home,” she said.