REPORT: NC missteps & lack of expertise led to slow disaster funds

An examination of why disaster funding has been so slow to get to victims of wildfires in Western NC and Hurricane Matthew faults "administrative missteps and lack of expertise."

On Hurricane Matthew disaster response:

[M]ost funds appropriated for Hurricane Matthew disaster recovery have been distributed in a relatively timely manner, with the exception of Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds. As of December 2018, the State has only spent 1% of its $236.5 million CDBG-DR allocation, and has never been labeled as an on-pace spender.7 This finding is the basis for several other CDBG-DR-related findings in this report that explain why these funds have been distributed in such an untimely manner.

The Program Evaluation Division of the General Assembly recommends lawmakers direct the Department of Public Safety to revise "procurement methods to ensure future CDBG-DR contracts are HUD-compliant, report to the General Assembly on these efforts, and report annually on the amount of non-reimbursed state funds used to administer CDBG-DR."

The News & Observer has a summary of the problems with the way the state used HUD disaster grants:

State contracts with companies to develop plans, write reports, and evaluate unmet needs did not meet HUD requirements, so the work had to be rebid. Because the companies the state hired initially could not be paid with federal money, they were paid with $3.7 million in state money. The report called that expense “unnecessary.”
The state did not have experience with the federal grant and its requirements. The legislature in 2009 started moving away from spending federal Community Development Block Grant money on housing, in favor of spending on economic development and infrastructure, the report said. The legislature eliminated the last housing program in 2013. As a result, the state Department of Commerce lost experts who knew how the HUD grant worked.
The state Department of Public Safety, which was responsible for spending the HUD grant money, didn’t have the right experience or enough staff.
The legislature is considering ways to get disaster relief to residents and communities faster. The state set up the Office of Recovery and Resiliency after Hurricane Florence last year. It is allowed to hire up to 30 people for three-year jobs. Legislators on Monday discussed making that office permanent, with staffing levels that would drop between disasters and increase when more people are needed to direct relief efforts.

Meanwhile, WBTV reports the Office of Inspector General at the federal Housing and Urban Development is conducting a review of the state's CDBG-DR spending.

It was not clear what the scope of the OIG’s review was, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the inquiry, who spoke with WBTV on the condition they not be named to discuss ongoing and sensitive matters.
A spokesman for the HUD OIG did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Governor Roy Cooper has come under fire for his handing of disasters since he took office in 2017.

Pete's Prep: Tuesday, May 21, 2019

  • According to WSOC-TV: Charlotte is losing FEMA funding to combat terrorism.
  • CNBC reports: People are flocking to Southern US cities - where wages are rising and the cost of living is relatively low. Raleigh and Durham make the list.
  • From the Carolina Journal: A move to ease restrictions for N.C. craft brewers who want to distribute their own beer is on the verge of becoming law.
  • Over at “Our research suggests that for many Democrats, expressing mental distress after the election was a form of partisan cheerleading,” said the researchers Masha Krupenkin, David Rothschild, Shawndra Hill and Elad Yom-Tov.

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